Archive for April, 2006

But don’t think it will be heaven…

Apr 30th, 2006

The problem with finding work you are pasionate about is that it begins to take over your life. When asked to describe yourself, your job comes first. I think of myself as a Scientist before most other things.

Yet there is still the tedium, and I’m sure this is true for any job. Scientists with the endless repetitions, failiures, grant applications and standard-protocols, teachers with marking, planning admin, artists with ensuring there will be an income, be it taking arts-council funding or whatever. But these aren’t the moments to work for, and although these might be the reasons that you find yourself working when you’d rather be asleep, the reason you tolerate those moments is because you know whats comming. (Or rather because you may not know whats comming, and thats where the excitement lies.)

Site troubles

Apr 9th, 2006

I appear to be having slight troubles with downloading of exe files. I am currently looking into this problem and it shall be addressed shortly.

ETA: I have contact my host and am waiting to hear from them.

EETA: I managed to find out a work-around my end, so all is now working. It seems that the webserver was trying to run the exes rather than deliver them.

Edinburgh science festival

Apr 8th, 2006

I recently did some work at the Edinburgh Science Festival, which attempts to engage the public with science, particularly young children. While I’d like to say that this work was voluntary, it wasn’t, and this underlies something which I see as a far more serious problem.
The supposed aim of the Science Festival is to make science accessible, and to introduce it to the public, who may otherwise remain uninterested. This goal, I think, is worthwhile, particularly when you consider various reports that have appeared this year. However I can’t help thinking that the festival fails on two accounts:

  1. It only attracts people who are already interested in science.
  2. It charges for entry, and for a number of the ‘attractions.’

While the former is difficult to avoid, short of breaking into peoples living-rooms and offering to extract DNA from their bacon sandwich, the latter poses a serious and potentially avoidable problem. Charging has two effects, firstly discouraging people from dropping in casually, but more importantly excluding those from less financially secure backgrounds.
Science should be accessible to everyone, not just those with enough money. Yet an event which is meant to increase the accessibility of science still sees fit to exclude a significant number of people on a financial basis.
Now I’m aware that these things cost money to run, yet there are ways of helping meet costs. For one get people to work voluntarily, many will be happy to if actually given a push. Raise other revenue by increased sponsorship (There was some already) and voluntary donations. Alternatively, if this results in a shortfall the least you could do is offer free trips to schools from under-privileged areas.
I know this isn’t all idealistic pipe-dreams as I have seen it achieved in other organisations and groups, such as CHAOS. Why the Edinburgh Science Festival cannot achieve the same thing, I don’t know.

H5N1

Apr 6th, 2006

With the BBC reporting a possible case of H5N1 found in a dead swan in Scotland (Only a few miles from me incidently) I thought I’d post a few thoughts I’ve been having.As yet it hasn’t been confirmed that this is a case of H5N1, but just of the same family of viruses.

As well as the undue panic ispired in some sections of the populations, some people appeared to have taken the opposite tack. “Pah!” they say, “A complete waste of time. They spend so much time focusing on brid flu and it will come to nothing, just like SARS. Its all unecessary fearmongering.” Now, I’m not about to deny that certain sections of the media have got carried away, but I will argue that health officials are taking a thoroughly sensible approach.
The treatment of bird flu (H5N1) by the world health organisation and other health officials is exactly as it should be. They have identified a virus that poses a possible threat in causing a global pandemic and are carefully monitoring its progress and studying mutations. This has two benefits, firstly it will allow a rapid response should the virus mutate or recombine with a human flu virus. A rapid response will hopefully contain an outbreak, reducing the need for vaccines and anti-virals, and will also help the deployment and development of drugs as necessary. Secondly, even if H5N1 never mutates, something else eventually will. The study of the spread of H5N1 will allow better prediction with regard to future outbreaks and also in identifying possible endemic viruses early in their life. This is especially relevant when it is realised that the 1918 flu virus began as a avian strain.

Of course, if the virus does mutate and the WHO is successful in containing the virus, then they will be accused of scaremongering and wasting time.

At the moment H5N1 hasn’t mutated, and so now it not the time to run around like headless chickens panicking. (A fault, partly, of the media) Conversely however there is a threat, and it is one worth monitoring. Even if this one doesn’t come to anything, one eventually will, and the more we can learn now the better.

I also wish to add that even without human risk, this virus is of concern to poultry farmers. (Foot and mouth for example harmed the livestock industry and posed no threat whatsoever to humans.)

Photoguide

Apr 4th, 2006



London

Originally uploaded by James Glover.

A month ago I was contacted by Schmap, who informed me that my photo had been shortlisted for inclusion in the Schmap London Guide, a free travel guide availible on their website. As I had released my photo under a Creative Commons non-comercial license, and they were a commercial organisation, they were asking my permission, which I quite happily gave.

Today I recieved an E-mail informing me that the photo had been selected for inclusion in the latest edition. So I’m a bit chuffed.

Shmap guides: http://www.schmap.com/