SciBlogs

Archive March 2011

New academic visas for New Zealand Grant Jacobs Mar 30

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Announced yesterday by the Minister of Immigration*, Dr Coleman, are new academic visas allowing academics from over 50 countries to visit New Zealand for up to three months without first having to apply for a work visa.

Franz Joseph Glacier  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Franz Joseph Glacier (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The motivation is explained by Dr Coleman in the press release as

’Even though academics are often here for a short time — for instance to speak at a conference — it’s technically work if they receive any sort of reward, including accommodation or airfares. Previously academics have required a work visa before travelling here,’

(It is usual practice at international meetings to cover the costs of at least the leading speakers.)

These new visas are to be available from Monday April 4th, 2011. Details beyond the initial press release do not yet appear to be available. I imagine the countries covered are the 50+ countries** whose residents are currently able to enter New Zealand for a 3-month visit without requiring a visa or visitor permit. No details on how these are issued (presumably on arrival) or what documentation is required to support them appears to available yet, although the press release does say

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Feynman on appreciating things and other stories Grant Jacobs Mar 27

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I did say that I would be unlikely to write over the next little while, but let me share with you this video, partly because it relates to the cartoon in my last post.

In it Richard Feynman’s daughter, Michelle, introduces British documentarian Richard Sykes who recorded three documentaries of Richard Feynman. Sykes, in turn, introduces a short series of clips of Richard Feynman from his documentaries.

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Wakefield, slime moulds and a short hiatus Grant Jacobs Mar 26

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A very short collection of snippets for the weekend.

Scientists are sometimes accused of being over-analytical and that this, supposedly, spoils seeing beauty in things.

xkcd-877-640px

I beg to differ. You can debate it in the comments!

This newspaper article has Andrew Wakefield apparently assisting setting up an ‘autism study’ on Somali immigrants in Minnesota, USA. Wakefield has already had his licence to practice medicine withdrawn, and his research work has been described as fraudulent in the British Medical Journal and elsewhere.

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Smelly analogy in cartoon of nuclear plant news Grant Jacobs Mar 25

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Here’s a cartoon that was apparently shown to young children in Japan, explaining their nuclear plant news.

For those wondering want this is doing on an adult’s science website, I offer in my defence the lame excuse that it is an example of science communication by analogy for the very young. While true, in reality I just find it a little surreal. Well, a whole lot surreal. You’ll see what I mean.

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Ken Ring & March 20th – let’s get back to science Grant Jacobs Mar 20

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As we head towards whatever flexi-time deadline it is that Ken Ring has in mind as the end of his ‘earthquake prediction/warning/opinion’ this what I see on the GeoNet national seismic drum summary:

Source: GeoNet, NZ.

Source: GeoNet, NZ.

Magnitude 4 earthquakes are common in New Zealand and we’ve had several over the past 24 hours. A magnitude 4.7 at Hawera from 120km down. Three magnitude 4+ earthquakes in 25 minutes near Twizel, and (much) smaller aftershocks in the Christchurch region. None of these are ‘for the record books’ as Ken Ring said to Marcus Lush.

This fuss has seen more traffic to my blog than ever. A good thing, right?

Actually, it’s partly why I’m sick of the Ken Ring fiasco. Readers can’t see the blog traffic, but I can. A good 60-80%+ of the traffic each day over the past ten days or so has been to a short article on why it never mattered what happened today. It’s depressing to see the bulk of my readership go to a topic like that for days on end. You can only hope it’s mostly people who think Ring’s ’predictions’ are silly, but that it’s attracted the sort of attention is has at all is a bit disquieting.

It’s also not as if I’ll stop letting people know what I think of homeopathy and whatnot; it’s the sheer persistence of the thing that is a bit much.

I want people to be reading about all the great things happening in science, not hare-brained ’predictions’ and the media circus feeding off it.

On that note, I offer below some of my longer-form articles for general readers, with teasers. Older articles including videos, shorter pieces and a few more serious articles can be found in my blog anniversary day listing or just browsing around the archives to the right of this page. Feel free to comment, even if the articles are old. Don’t forget my colleagues blogs too.

Health and science-related

Ancient books (or I’d rather be reading) Grant Jacobs Mar 19

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I’d rather be reading, so in a round-about sort of way I’m offering you some ancient reading so that I might excuse myself to do my own (more modern) reading.

Brunschwig's Liber de Arte Distillande

From Brunschwig’s Liber de Arte Distillande

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WWW database servers on Mac OS X 10.6.x, part III: managing the web server Grant Jacobs Mar 18

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PROGRAMMING/BIOINFORMATICS: Part III of a outline guide to setting a Mac OS X machine up for a web server database using Mac OS X 10.6.x, MySQL and Perl.

Originally intended as one long document, I have broken this into several parts. These instructions do not consider Mac OS X Server, which has a slightly different setup for MySQL. Part I covers installing MySQL. Part II covers installing the Perl modules to communicate with MySQL, setting up the first (empty) database and where to place your WWW files and scripts.

MySQL-logo

I’m not going to get into the details of tweaking config files and whatnot – the aim here is to offer a basic recipe that should work for most people without too much extraneous fluff which confuse a first-time installs. It’s a prescriptive outline rather than an detailed explanation.

I’m going to assume installing it on a client’s machine, i.e. you’ve no idea what it’s set up with.

Configuring Apache

Apache-feather

This section is a little geeky and may not be needed by many users. I’m including it as it gives a little insight in to controlling access to files and directories by editing the Apache config files. If you are going to develop web services you should at some point get to grips with configuring the server yourself.

Before providing users access to your web server, you might want to configure the access in ways that suit your purpose. This involves editing the Apache configuration files.

This gives you finer control of access and effectively provides a second layer of control after the firewall access controls (these are described below).

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WWW database servers on Mac OS X 10.6.x, part II: installing the Perl modules Grant Jacobs Mar 17

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PROGRAMMING/BIOINFORMATICS: Part II of a outline guide to setting a Mac OS X machine up for a web server database using Mac OS X 10.6.x, MySQL and Perl.

Originally intended as one long document, I have broken this into several parts to better suit my time. Part II focuses on installing the modules the Perl programming language requires in order to interact with the relational database, MySQL, and setting up the first (empty) database and where to place your WWW files and scripts. These instructions do not consider Mac OS X Server, which has a slightly different setup for MySQL. Part I covers installing MySQL.

MySQL-logo

I’m not going to get into the details of tweaking config files and whatnot – the aim here is to offer a basic recipe that should work for most people without too much extraneous fluff which confuse a first-time installs. It’s a prescriptive outline rather than an detailed explanation.

I’m going to assume installing it on a client’s machine, i.e. you’ve no idea what it’s set up with.

Installing perl database modules via CPAN

CPAN

CPAN is the comprehensive perl archive network, basically a collection of more perl modules that you could believe existed. Although you can manually download the modules and install them, it’s easier to run CPAN from the command-line perl, especially if you already know what modules you want to install.

Start up CPAN via perl:

perl -MCPAN -e ‘shell’

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Christchurch/Lyttelton Feb 22nd 2011 earthquake – questions and answers Grant Jacobs Mar 16

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The Royal Society of New Zealand and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Committee has released a PDF document, The Canterbury Earthquakes: Scientific answers to critical questions.

Questions addressed range from the nature of the aftershocks to predicting earthquakes, the differences between the September 4th 2010 magnitude 7.1 and February 22nd 2011 magnitude 6.3 earthquakes and others.

An audio recording of the press conference associated with the release of this document is available soon at the Science Media Centre. Update (3:53pm): a transcript of his introductory speech is now also available as a PDF file; this particular includes remarks on understanding probability, risk and hazards.

The document features an excellent infographic from USGS relating the number of people in each part of the city and shaking levels in that part of the city (using the MMI scale). It also shows two graphs breaking down the peak ground accelerations into it’s horizontal and vertical components. I’ve included copies of them below as teasers to encourage readers to read the document.

chch-eq-popn-v-shaking

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WWW database servers on Mac OS X 10.6.x, part I: Installing MySQL Grant Jacobs Mar 16

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PROGRAMMING/BIOINFORMATICS: Part I of a outline guide to setting a Mac OS X machine up for a web server database using Mac OS X 10.6.x, MySQL and Perl.

Originally intended as one long document, I have broken this into several parts to better suit my time. Part I focuses on installing the relational database, MySQL. (I may offer these instructions as a complete document once the series is complete.) These instructions do not consider Mac OS X Server, which has a slightly different setup for MySQL.

MySQL-logo

I’m also not going to get into the details of tweaking config files and whatnot – the aim here is to offer a basic recipe that should work for most people without too much extraneous fluff which confuse a first-time installs. It’s a prescriptive outline rather than an detailed explanation.

While this description is oriented at those intending to use the Perl programming language to interact with a relational database, with a WWW interface for users, this first part only deals with MySQL itself. I’m going to assume installing it on a client’s machine, i.e. you’ve no idea what it’s set up with.

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