Sep 102013
 

Over the years I’ve come across the work done by Eugenie C. Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), and I’ve posted some articles on her work. I remember quite clearly when she was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Science in 2010. Earlier this year, Scott announced that she would retire by the end of the year.

NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott announced on May 6, 2013, that she was planning to retire by the end of the year, after more than twenty-six years at NCSE’s helm. “It’s a good time to retire, with our new climate change initiative off to a strong start and with the staff energized and excited by the new challenges ahead,” she commented. “The person who replaces me will find a strong staff, a strong set of programs, and a strong board of directors.”

During Scott’s time at NCSE, she was honored with no fewer than eight honorary degrees as well as the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Science, the inaugural Stephen Jay Gould Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Public Service Award from the National Science Board, and the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It’s not going to be easy to fill the shoes of someone who has done so much to make NCSE into the respected and admired organization it is,” remarked Brian Alters, the president of NCSE’s board of directors. “We look forward with working with Genie to find the best possible successor.” A job announcement is now available; members and friends of NCSE are encouraged to spread the word that what Scott once described as “the best job in the world” will soon be open.

Science Insider (May 6, 2013) reported on the announcement, quoting Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University as saying of Scott, “She’s incomparable, irreplaceable, and indispensable,” and Sean B. Carroll of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as saying, “The entire scientific community, legions of teachers, and millions of students owe her a great debt for her dedication and passionate advocacy. She has established a remarkable legacy at NCSE.”

She’s done a good job at the NCSE, and I’d like to thank her for that work there and for her lectures.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

May 022013
 

So, Spanish Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria has ordered that the blood bags seized from convicted doctor Eufemiano Fuentes be destroyed following “Operacion Puerto”.

Doing so will deprive anti-doping agencies from determining which athletes have cheated. I do not understand Santamaria’s reasons to destroy the blood bags; does not the Spanish legal system want to know which athletes are cheats?

To me, and I’m sure to others, Santamaria’s decision has all the hallmarks of a cover-up, a clear sign of corruption in the Spanish legal system. It was clear in the USADA case against Armstrong that Spain was a haven for drugs cheats, and now Santamaria’s decision to destroy the blood bags plus the rather lame sentence passed to Eufemiano Fuentes reinforces that status.

I can only conclude that Santamaria is a corrupt judge and that this corruption is endemic in the Spanish legal system. Drugs cheats rejoice.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

Oct 212012
 

The trial of Alber Saber has been postponed and he faces further time in remand as bail seems to be unlikely.

What are they waiting for?

There are worrying signs that such incidents are on the increase against those that don’t adhere to various interpretations of Islamic precepts.

With the many changes occurring in Egypt at this time, there is an opportunity right now for a rebirth, for Egyptians to collectively reject the unreasonable and the irrational, and to stop Egypt becoming another Saudi Arabia:

Egypt has a chance. Seize the opportunity.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2012

Jul 092012
 

I made a huge leap in reducing the noise pollution from my mountain bike a few months ago; I replaced my Hope Pro 2 rear hub with an XTR hub.

Whilst riding, and also in my GoPro HD Hero 2 recordings, I was hearing a lot of clickety-clackety noises when going over very rough ground at speed; I put this down to chain slap. So I added a Bionicon C.Guide V.02 chainguide to my triple-ring setup in the hopes of reducing chain slap. The Bionicon C.Guide is a modern take on the DCD (Dave’s Chain Device) that was so popular in the 1990s.

Bionicon C-Guide V.02 chainguide

Before fitting the Bionicon C.Guide I feared that the chain trundling through the plastic guide might cause some additional noise; this fear was unfounded as the device, so far, is silky smooth (the Squirt lube also seems to help). This, combined with the rear hub change, resulted in a very quiet bike when out riding.

However, there were still some mechanical noises in my GoPro camera recordings. I soon pinpointed this to the camera itself and eliminated that noise by opening it up and putting in some foam padding. But mechanical noise in the recording still hadn’t been completely eliminated. I traced these remaining noises to two items that were close to the GoPro camera: the Satmap Active 10 GPS device and the Knog NERD 12 bicycle computer.

On the Satmap Active 10, it was just the rechargeable battery bouncing around in the compartment. I soon resolved that by putting some foam padding in there.

On the Knog NERD 12, the noise appeared to be coming from within the device when I shook it. I took drastic action by cutting open the NERD with a junior hacksaw; this was done by cutting around the sides of the display. I soon had the unit opened. There were a bunch of items in there that could cause noise if shaken so I put some blu-tack padding in strategic locations within the device. I reassembled everything but have, temporarily, used some blu-tack for moisture protection and cello tape (or scotch tape in the USA) to hold the unit together; I’ll be using some epoxy resin to provide a more permanent assembly of the NERD at some point. Anyway, noise gone!

I do have a traditional mechanical bicycle bell that makes a little bit of noise when shaken and I have found no way of eliminating that noise. I could replace the bell but it was a birthday present from my friend’s 4-year old son so I’m unlikely to replace it any time soon! The noise is only slight and not really noticeable in the GoPro recordings so I can live with that.

The only other potential source of noise is that caused by the brake cables and gear cables hitting the GoPro camera housing whilst riding over bumps. Now, that does need some fixing. I’m looking at better placement of the GoPro and somehow fastening the cables so that they don’t hit the camera housing. I’ve not yet found a solution but have some ideas that I need to try out. It’s going to be trial and error I’m afraid.

Funnily enough, my rear disc brakes have just started to squeal a little. Oh dear, when will the noise stop!

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2012

Aug 032010
 

Having read Ben Goldacre “Bad Science” book and blog, and having read other websites dedicated to the need for evidence-based decisions and the need for proper trials, I agree with Ben Goldacre’s article “Boris Johnson and his innovative trial methodology” that Johnson may be harming our kids with his “tacit” endorsement of the Centre for Policy Studies hair-brained idea for a competition between schools to determine if “phonics” as a teaching aid works. I say “tacit” as, although Johnson talks about “controls” in his forward, I’m afraid that any “controls” will be meaningless in such a competition.

If Johnson allows this “competition” to determine the future of education then he is risking educational harm to a generation or more of children. C’mon Johnson, enough with the political short-termism; drum up support for long-term and large-scale randomised trials. It’s the ethical thing to do. Read “Bad Science” and understand; become a better Mayor, and champion for our kids future.

As for the Centre for Policy Studies, well, I’m not sure that such an organisation has demonstrated much competence here. What were they thinking?

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2010

Jun 122010
 

I recognise that I do tend to rant rather more than rave on this blog. But I suppose it’s the injustices and idiocies of this world that get me all fired up. So, in order to address this imbalance, here’s some good news regarding the advancement of education. Dispatches from the Culture Wars reports that Genie Scott (Eugenie Scott), executive director of the National Center for Science Education, has been awarded with Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences for "championing the teaching of evolution in the United States and for providing leadership to the National Center for Science Education.". The award ceremony was in 25th April 2010.

The National Academy of Sciences press release states:

Eugenie C. Scott to Receive Public Welfare Medal, Academy’s Most Prestigious Award

WASHINGTON — The National Academy of Sciences Council has selected Eugenie C. Scott to receive its most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal. Established in 1914, the medal is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good. The Council chose Scott for championing the teaching of evolution in the United States and for providing leadership to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

Date: Jan. 11, 2010
Contacts: Maureen O’Leary, Director of Public Information
Luwam Yeibio, Media Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail

Scott, a physical anthropologist by training, became the first executive director of the National Center for Science Education in 1987. Beginning with a loose network of supporters scattered around the country and a few private grants, she has developed NCSE into the nation’s leading advocate for the teaching of evolution in public schools. Through lectures, television appearances, and articles, she has explained the process of scientific inquiry and defended science education against creationist challenges. Scott and the NCSE have served as pro bono consultants in state and federal court cases on science standards, including the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in which the teaching of intelligent design was held by a federal court to be unconstitutional.

"Eugenie Scott has worked tirelessly and very effectively to improve public understanding of both the nature of science and the science of evolution,” said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences. "She makes the case for science again and again."

“Dr. Scott has been a champion in protecting the teaching of evolution in the U.S. public schools and a central figure in improving the public’s understanding of evolution and the nature of science. We honor her for many years of organizing coalitions of scientists, parents, teachers, business people, clergy, and others to defend the teaching of evolution," said John Brauman, home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the Public Welfare Medal selection committee.

Scott received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. She holds six honorary degrees and has received numerous awards from scientific and civil liberties organizations. Scott has served on the board of directors of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and on the advisory councils of several organizations defending the separation of church and state. Scott, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has also held elected offices in the American Anthropological Association and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

The Public Welfare Medal will be presented to Scott on April 25 during the Academy’s 147th annual meeting. Previous recipients of the medal include Neal Lane, Norman Borlaug, William T. Golden, Maxine F. Singer, C. Everett Koop, and Carl Sagan.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council — provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

Here’s an excellent lecture from Genie Scott:

What’s the fuss about intelligent design?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvlgs4s48I8

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2010

Jan 232010
 

The recently released Firefox 3.6, as default, does not utilise Windows 7 taskbar previews for multiple tabs. This is in stark contrast to Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) which uses it to great effect and is a great productivity feature. However, Firefox 3.6 can be configured to utilise Windows 7 taskbar previews by following these steps:

  1. In Firefox 3.6, type about:config in the address bar.

  2. When the “Here be dragons!” page appears, proceed by clinking on “I’ll be careful, I promise!”.

  3. A page is now displayed with a list of preferences.

  4. In the “Filter:” field, type browser.taskbar.previews.enable

  5. The preference browser.taskbar.previews.enable should now be displayed. Double-click on this preference so that the “Value” field toggles to “true”.

  6. OK, you’re done now. You shouldn’t need to restart Firefox as the change should be instant.

Everything seems to be working fine now, but there probably are one or two bugs within Firefox 3.6 otherwise this feature would have been switched-on by default.

One bug that I did find, though, occurs when you change the page zoom levels within Firefox 3.6. It doesn’t matter if you use Firefox’s in-built per-site zoom levels, manual zoom, or the rather excellent “NoSquint” Add-on (for managing default zoom levels for all pages/sites), the result is always the same; the Windows 7 taskbar previews do not show the correct zoom levels or page layouts if the zoom levels are not at 100%.

I recognise that the Firefox team have probably been busy on other features, bugs and performance issues but it seems to me that they’ve had plenty of time…Windows 7 has been out for quite a while especially if you also consider Windows 7’s extensive beta trial.

I doubt that any 3.6.x version will implement a non-buggy version of the requested feature, so here’s looking at Firefox 3.7!

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2010

Jul 292009
 

spine reprinted from Sense About Science

free debate

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Beware the spinal trap

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that ’99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae’. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

Continue reading »

Mar 132009
 

Read the article at http://richarddawkins.net/article,3654,n,n which is a repost of http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/student-facing-20-years-in-hell-1643069.html.

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh (originally sentenced to death for blasphemy in Afghanistan after allegedly distributing a report that was critical of the treatment of woman under Islamic law) has been told he will now spend the next 20 years in jail.  It gets even worse. The Supreme Court "trial" was done in secret with no representation from the defence. What the hell kind of people are running Afghanistan?

More references at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayed_Pervez_Kambaksh

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh (also spelled Kambakhsh or Kaambaksh) is a 23 year old reporter for a local newspaper (Jahaan Naw) and a journalism student from Afghanistan who was sentenced to death for downloading and distributing a report criticising the treatment of women under Islamic Law. A religious court found him guilty of blasphemy. He was tried behind closed doors and without legal representation in Mazar-e-Sharif. His brother Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi is a journalist who wrote about human rights, exposing rights abuses.[1]

The Afghan Senate passed a motion confirming the death sentence on 30 January 2008.[2] The motion was later withdrawn due to international pressure, giving Kambaksh the right to appeal the sentence.[2] The British newspaper The Independent has now launched a campaign to support Kambaksh, and an online petition has also been started by the newspaper. However, if a journalist in Afghanistan were to support Kambaksh they would also be arrested.[3]

As of September 2008, he was still imprisoned and under threat of the death penalty.[4] In October 2008, his lawyer Mohamed Afzal Shormach Nuristani demanded that Kambaksh be freed as his detention since the appeal has exceeded legal limits because of court delays.[5]

In March 2009 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.[6]

References

  1. ^ Death sentence for Afghan reporter CNN
  2. ^ a b Sengupta, Jerome; Starkey (2008-02-02), "LaLifeline for Pervez: Afghan Senate withdraws demand for death sentence", The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/lifeline-for-pervez-afghan-senate-withdraws-demand-for-death-sentence-777188.html, retrieved on 2008-10-13
  3. ^ Zetter, Kim (2008-02-01). "Aghan Student Sentenced to Death after Downloading Report". Wired.com. http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/02/afghan-student.html. Retrieved on 2008-10-13.
  4. ^ Leithead, Alastair (2008-09-09). "Blasphemy case shows Afghan divide". BBC News. http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/02/afghan-student.html. Retrieved on 2008-10-13.
  5. ^ "Lawyer demands release of reporter on death row", Gulf Times, 2008-10-10, http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=246871&version=1&template_id=41&parent_id=23, retrieved on 2008-10-13
  6. ^ Starkey, Jerome (March 12, 2009), "Student facing 20 years in hell", The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/student-facing-twenty-years-in-hell-1643069.html

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2009