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:
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
- Monkey business, or is my uncle also my Dad? I’m still get a couple of visits a day to this early post. For male pygmy marmosets, their genetic father could be their uncle. Confused? Check it out.
- GMOs and the plants we eat: neither are ‘natural’ An attempt to point out that, among other things, both our ’natural’ foods and GMOs are both not ‘natural’ really.
- Deleting a gene can turn an ovary into a testis in adult mammals I was startled to learn that ovaries may not be permanently defined to be ovaries in some adult mammals.
- The inheritance of face recognition (should you blame your parents if you can’t recognise faces?) Prosopagnosia is surprisingly common and has fascinated me for years.
- Aww, crap. Some pitcher plants have adapted to be tree-shrew toilets…
- Book sales, frumpy readers, and mental rotation of book titles While at the famous-in-Dunedin 24-hour book sale I wondered if there was a ‘right’ orientation to scan rows of books. (Nominated by a reader for OpenLaboratory 2010.)
- I remember because my DNA was methylated Epigenetics meets neural systems, meets memories. I get a little lyrical in the beginning, which I confess I enjoyed.
- Boney lumps, linkage analysis and whole genome sequencing Looking for the basis of inherited bone spurs.
- Temperature-induced hearing loss This was a surprise to learn: a few rare individuals have temperature-sensitive hearing, losing it when they have a high body temperature.
- Preserving endangered species — of gut microbes A interesting idea – new to me –that we should not only conserve rare species of animals but also microbes in our gut that reflect now rare diets.
- Coiling bacterial DNA DNA in cells is rarely ’naked’, it is packaged with proteins. This article presents a new model for bacterial DNA packaging.
- Finding platypus venom Researchers cleverly did not extracted the venom, but created them by comparing the platypus genome with known venomous proteins and expressing the genes that matched. (I have to admit this is one of my favourites.)
- Popularity does not mean effectiveness or sensibility This very short post shows up a common fallacy in a fun way.
- Autistic children and blood mercury levels Leaving aside autism, the study covered here reveals where we get mercury from.
- Genetic tests and personalised medicine
- Minorities, disabilities and scientists The silly pictures were fun. Hearing aids like you’ve never seen…
- Monday potpourri: maps, malaria in the USA, cholera in Dunedin and vaccines Three very short pieces chain together a line of thought.
- Rubella, not a benign disease if experienced during early pregnancy As a ‘rubella kid’ this topic is close to my heart in it’s own way.
- Homeopathy check-up: Not in the health system, disclaimers on labels Homeopathy is one of the silliest things around… (I’ve written a lot on homeopathy. It is admittedly a soft target: that it even exists ’in this day and age’ is bizarre.)
- Autism – looking for parent-of-origin effects Some genes are expressed in a way that depends on what parent the gene was from. I report on a study looking at autism this way.
- Forgetting older science In which I worry that PubMed and it’s ilk are causing a (temporary) lost of older science.
- Advice for students heading to university Inviting suggestions, starting with a few of my own.
- A course for all degrees: PHIL 105, Critical Thinking I never had formal training in philosophy or logic, but this looks to be a course every student should take.
- You can change the ideas, but not the data I overheard Professor Lawrence saying this to religious students that crowded around him after his public lecture. It resonates with me and not just in science: advocates of pseudo-science (e.g. those pushing unsubstantiated ’remedies’) often try replace data with ideas of their own.
- Professors, lost souls with great oratory power? Leading from a charged passage in a novel I was reading, I asked if readers thought this a stereotype of professors. (Some didn’t.)
- What is your relationship with your research notebook? We all have notebooks of one kind or other, but relate to them differently.
- Know the history of your field, be it science or pottery Knowing the history of your field clues you into why things are as they are, beyond pure logic taken at face value.
- Career paths, redux — the academic research career is the exception In this article, I gather the thoughts from several older articles that suggest Ph.D. graduates, and academia in general, need to look more widely at where post-graduate degrees are used. (A related article followed later: On alternatives to academic careers and “letting go”)
As a parting thought, I would also suggest to Ken Ring that a change in line of his ‘forecasting’ business is in order–to one that does not impact on people or exploit their fears. A return to Pawmistry, perhaps? (Palm-readings of cats and kittens, for the few who haven’t heard of it yet.)