Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"In them days..."

Time marches on... I've read media stories of people being surprised that others had never heard of the musicians "the Beatles" -- or people arguing passionately that we should work day and night to avoid any chance that World War II could occur ("!Hello!")

The first computer I bought (in 1985) had no internet access; neither did the second in 1991. In them days, that was the way it was; now it is almost unimaginable.

Time marches on.

PS- My first computer industry job was in 1979, before the mass-market PC was born, as a systems monitor for a Digital Equipment DEC PDP-11. The machine and its huge tape drives were kept away from users, behind glass in a climate-controlled room (standard in them days)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Japan Mocks Science & Research - Why?

Japan's whaling season has begun. This week a fleet of ships leaves Shimonoseki, Japan, on a five-month hunt to the South Pacific.

Mission: kill whales & deliver whale meat to Japan

Why? Research into whale population stocks is claimed. "Scientific whaling" is alleged, but the studies have been condemned for generating little useful data, via unnecessarily lethal methods.

Certainly if anthropologists studying tribes had to kill a bunch of case subjects to conduct research, we might consider it paradoxical. Yet it is that very jump to anthropomorphic comparison that gives many whaling proponents heartburn: whales are not people. (They are huge chunks of meat?)

JARPA, Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit, is soon to be expanded and extended under the vision of "Monitoring the Antarctic Ecosystem"...

Those not cetacean researchers, including me, perhaps cannot properly judge the importance of such research. Anyhow, a list of scientific papers (click here) is helpfully online at the Institute of Cetacean Research. It is an old list, dated 1998, with 134 total "scientific papers based on data and material obtained during JARPA" The list is padded: 60 of the 134 papers are marked "unpublished" (perhaps unpublishable); another 41 papers are presentations to the International Whaling Commission or reports about Japan's proposed research whaling; one scientific paper is the list itself! Suddenly an impressive looking list of 134 scientific papers becomes 31. Even that list is not wholly scientific results: 5 papers report about the research plan or its logic (e.g., Nagasaki,F,1989. The facts, "facts" and fiction of scientific whaling. Sci.Technol.Jpn 8(31),pp 36-47); another 8 papers are student theses, including 3 at BA level (some replicate other listed papers, e.g., S.Itoh's work on "Lipids of the Antarctic minke whale" was split into two publications, literally I and II, and also lists as a Ph.D. thesis). Another of the listings specifies JARPA basis as [in "Notes"], so perhaps explicitly not part of the paper. Thus, how much science came out of research whaling to that point? Surely 17 studies, plus the student studies; perhaps impressive...

Then why do it? Japan has a long history of whaling. Many people consider harvesting whales nearly the same as killing other animals such as cows or pigs for their meat. More importantly, proponents in Japan have positioned the whale hunt as a point of national pride - "we Japanese (我々日本人) shouldn't have foreigners dictating our way of life." Such meddlesome outsiders are depicted as beef-eating hypocrites.

Yet to hide the hunt behind a smokescreen as "research" belittles science. The Japanese government has taken a belligerent position that has now outraged foreign consumers who (maybe) buy Japanese products. But they managed also to insult the scientific method, and to diminish Japanese science in the eyes of the wider global community.

Japan Whaling Association - homepage

Japanese Government: Fisheries Agency
Emphasizing the "sustainable use of marine resources"

Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Shanghai Seven" didn't vote Bush!

Bridge team from USA (yes, card players) accused of sedition
Link:   Uproar Over Fact or Anti-Bush?

Some call Him ... Moloch
Truly He is a vengeful God
Burning & purging all sin & transgression

These wenches might be tarred & feathered
They could be stripped of their livelihoods
Offered bare sackcloth & ash
To expiration. Bedamned!

Or the histrionics may simply be stopped.

Alors! Alors! Shall we tear our hair?
Gnash our teeth
Call down the Lord to smite them...

Or perhaps allow a passing fact.

Or suppose, just maybe, a voting machine audit
Would find these rude bridge players
-- "The Shanghai Seven" --
Did vote for Bush
113 times.

Did they call him an weasel?
Did they call him a knave?
Did they call him horrid?

"We did not vote for Bush"
Horror of Horrors!
?! Burn them ?!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Autumn Appetite?

In Japan, the phrase Autumn appetite (食欲の秋) explains the special tastes and hungers of the Fall season. Today my sense of taste was uncommonly acute. Perhaps it is the Autumn air, perhaps it is biorhythms, or perhaps it is from taking 1200 mg of the dietary supplement Quercetin this morning.

Quercetin is a flavonoid derived from apples, berries, tea, onions, etc. presently under intense study by DARPA for the US military. It reportedly can bind to viruses and bacteria to stop them replicating, stimulating immune response (see New Scientist 2007-09-19, p.10); I got my Quercetin from Vitamin World.

Rest In Peace

It is odd how some things make a big impression.

This weekend an Australian newsreader, Charmaine Dragun, tragically threw herself from a cliff. I didn't know her, or previously know of her, but online news referenced her below article about a trip to her ancestral village in Croatia:
Dragun's search for her roots

The article vividly describes her excitement and sensory experiences.

Now she is dead, age 29.