Showing posts from 2010

Scintillating Dinner Conversations...

... on a tiny, tiny keyboard... that don't involve me. This is the frustrating reality of life in the smartphone era- a syndrome I refer to as Hyper-Connectivity Addiction.  The syndrome presents itself as a constellation of symptoms, ranging from inappropriate use of electronic communication devices, prioritization of electronic interaction over personal interaction, and etiquette-busting rudeness with no sense of time or place for use of personal electronics. Over the last year, going out to dinner with others frequently turns from a time to share conversation and time together into a time where I watch someone play with a phone.  Whether it is texting, talking, or checking their fairy-tale football team, the time at the table previously filled with witty banter, personal interaction and news exchange has transformed into the prime venue to catch up on trivial electronic business with the rest of the world. Now, it could just be that I'm boring and bring nothing to the

The Strawberry Genome: The Story Behind the Story

Today we have witnessed something that many of us thought we'd never see- the completed publication of the strawberry genome.  The story appeared today in Nature Genetics . But what is the story behind the story?  As someone that was there from the beginning, I think it is helpful to recap the highlights and lowlights that did not reach the journal article. It adds much more texture to the news release and gives a much better understanding of the process of getting from crazy idea to final publication. When next-generation sequencing came into vogue, there was immediate buzz about sequencing strawberry.  It was late 2005.  Arabidopsis and rice were fully sequenced, others were in progress and other plants were in line for genome sequencing.  At the time we solicited various government agencies for the funds to use the new 454 sequencer at the University of Florida.  We were one of the first places with the platform, so we dreamed of using it in a revolutionary way.  The tiny st

Natural News. Shame On You.

Natural News is a website devoted to, well, insanity.  While appearing to be folksy yet alternative, they give the worst possible medical advice (cure any cancer for $5.15 a day) and promote a non-scientific point of view, invoking every logical fallacy possible.  They draw conclusions that can't be supported and promote the most un-critical thinking I've ever seen. I read a recent post and now I"m mad.   The post "Bill Gates Says Vaccines Can Reduce World Populations" is a lie right off the top.  In a recent TED talk Bill Gates said: "The world today has 6.8 billion people... that's headed up to about 9 billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care,  reproductive health  services, we could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent."  Of course what Gates is saying is that population is an issue, especially in the developing world, and that steps need to be taken to ensure the health of people there.  If families beli

Climate Conspiracy, Part II

Today's blog follows up on the Climate Conspiracy blog posted last week.  It was based on two conversations I had with a clear climate denialist.  The first entry details a discussion where the other party has direct evidence of bias in funding for climate research... that is, until I call him on it. Today I'll provide another example.  It is interesting to note the climate denialists follow the same exact scheme as those that deny evolution or the safety of GMO food.  There always is a conspiracy, chocked full of secrets.  There are threats and intimidation, nameless figures and warped senses of victimization. This is the second part of my discussion with James McGaha.  Again, we had a very nice conversation where I did a lot more listening than talking.  It was a private conversation, he had no idea that I'd write here about it (neither did I), but it is a good case for understanding science denialism. During the conversation he told me that he knew someone, that mu

The Climate Conspiracy

A panel convened at The Amazing Meeting 8 (TAM8) to discuss the skeptical coverage of climate change. Panelist James McGaha made a number of statements that I really disagreed with.  He's a self described climate skeptic, as any good scientist should be, only he demonstrates his patent ignorance toward the scientific method and the critical consideration of evidence. During his time on a panel, clearly as a representative of the camp that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a figment of the imagination and a liberal conspiracy, he espoused several positions that demonstrated his clear departure from the scientific method. Multiple times he stated, "Science is wrong".   He framed this in several ways, all of which will be more comprehensively disclosed once the TAM8 videos become available. Science is not wrong.  Science is a tool to answer questions in an objective and powerful way.  Science is not wrong.  Science just disagrees with his non-scientific conclusio

Pale Blue Dot Revisited

I was talking to a friend this morning.  She speaks to the vastness of space and our insignificant position relative to the universe and everything.  I thought of the Sagan's "pale blue dot".   The tiny blue dot in the center of the bright band on the right is Earth. You ain't so cool. The picture was taken from the Voyager spacecraft as it left our solar system in 1990.  Scientists turned the camera back toward the sun and captured an image.  The image shows our planet, our home, the place where everyone that every human that has ever lived, modestly presented as a dim tiny fleck- a pale blue dot.  This single pixel shows our position we were all there in that photo, all of us captured on that single spot of light. It is humbling and maybe tragic, as it shows how minor we are in the true grand scale.