Archive for the ‘Bad science’ Category
Last month I emailed my local MP, Jenny Willott (Lib Dem, Cardiff Central), regarding the Draft Defamation Bill and the ‘Leveson clause’ using The Libel Reform Campaign‘s Don’t kill the Bill. I received the following response this morning:
Ref: LS/TC/270313/Defamation Bill 2013
8th April 2013
Dear Dr. Crick,
Thank you for your email about the Defamation Bill.
The Defamation Bill is a hugely important piece of legislation that I strongly support. Over recent years, Britain has become a laughing stock as libel tourism has been on the rise and cases have been brought against various high profile scientists and journalists. This has to change, and as my party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, made clear in a speech on civil liberties last year, libel reform is a very real priority for this government.
That’s why I have been disappointed that this Bill has been held up in the House of Lords by the Conservatives after Labour Peers tabled amendments to introduce the Leveson reforms. However, now that the three main party leaders have agreed the way forward to implement the Leveson reforms, the path is clear for the Defamation Bill to proceed.
As part of the deal between the parties, the Prime Minister announced to the House of Commons that the Government’s legislative programme would now be unblocked, including the Defamation Bill. The changes proposed by Leveson and the reforms in the Defamation Bill are badly needed, and I am pleased that we have now been able to agree a way that we can deliver both.
The right to freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our constitution, and the need to reform our 19th century libel laws is great. The proposals in the Defamation Bill will ensure that the threat of libel proceedings is not used to frustrate robust scientific and academic debate, or to impede responsible investigative journalism and valuable work undertaken by non-governmental organisations. Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of the campaign for reform, and I am looking forward to the Defamation Bill completing its stages in the Commons in the next few weeks and becoming law.
Thank you again for writing, and please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have further concerns about this or any other issue.
MP for Cardiff Central
(from That Mitchell and Webb Look, Series 3 Episode 4)
Homeopathy is a type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) that has been shown to be no more effective than placebo (a.k.a. the nocebo effect). Worryingly, it is available on the NHS (for reasons of “patient choice” rather than efficacy) and Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, has recently publicly supported homeopathy.
And then ask yourself: how does homeopathy work?
Oh dear: “51 percent of respondents…believe stormy weather can interfere with cloud computing.” bit.ly/Nx7o2Y
— Samuel Arbesman (@arbesman) August 29, 2012
According to a recent survey by Citrix*, many Americans appear to be utterly confused by cloud computing. While the cloud phenomenon is clearly taking root in our mainstream culture, there is still a wide gap between the perceptions and realities of cloud computing. While many use it, few understand it: 95% of people surveyed claimed they have never used the cloud, 22% admit that they have pretended to know what the cloud is or how it works. Nearly one third see the cloud as a thing of the future, yet 97% are actually using cloud services today via social networking, email, file sharing, banking and online shopping.
But the big stat is: 51% of respondents, including a majority of Millennials, believe stormy weather can interfere with cloud computing.
* FYI, Citrix is a software company that specialises in virtualisation, networking and cloud technologies, so you can see the potential angle of this survey; plus it was a relatively small sample size (c.1000).
In June, Chris Chambers and I started the Welsh Geek Manifesto Pledge, a declaration to send a copy of Mark Henderson‘s The Geek Manifesto to all 60 Assembly Members of the National Assembly of Wales.
Success! Yesterday, we received the final pledge and are collecting the donations. We are currently planning an event to maximise the impact of the delivery of the 60 copies of The Geek Manifesto to the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay (more details to follow shortly).
N.B. The Welsh Geek Manifesto Pledge followed the original Geek Manifesto Pledge for the 650 MPs in Westminster; there are open pledges in Northern Ireland (“Geekmanifulster”), Scotland (GeekScotland) and Australia (Geek the Vote).
Last week on the Linux Kernel Mailing List, a minor question was raised about the suitability of certain magic constants in the support code in the Linux kernel for Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation environment. This was widely reported a week later. So how did a hexadecimal string cause so much offence? Well, it turns out that the constant passed through to the hypervisor was 0xB16B00B5, or in English, BIG BOOBS. And this was not an exception: when the code was originally submitted it also contained 0x0B00B135 (BOOBIES). While this looks to be a puerile joke, it could be potentially problematic because Azure (Microsoft’s cloud computing platform) may depend on this constant, so changing it could break things.
Even though the Linux kernel itself contains a fair amount of profanity, Microsoft swiftly apologised: “We thank the community for reporting this issue and apologize for the offensive string. We have submitted a patch to fix this issue and the change will be published in a future release of the kernel.” (in fact, the patch changed the string to its decimal representation: 2976579765). However, as Matthew Garrett notes on his blog, this can be easily attributed to straightforward childish humour (and the use of pseudo-English strings in magic hexadecimal constants is hardly uncommon; you can even generate hex poetry, if you so wish), but sniggering at breasts contributes to the continuing impression that software development is a boys club where girls are not welcome.
Further to The Geek Manifesto Pledge by Dave Watts, which has successfully pledged to put a copy of The Geek Manifesto on the desks of all 650 Members of Parliament, Chris Chambers and I have made the following pledge for science in Wales:
I will personally deliver 60 copies of The Geek Manifesto to the National Assembly for Wales, but only if 59 other people will help buy the books.
Chris, a psychologist/neuroscientist at Cardiff University, had already sent a copy of the book to our MP, Cardiff Central’s Jenny Willott. We met up for a beer a few weeks ago and resolved to send a copy of the book to all of the 60 Assembly Members in the National Assembly for Wales. We think this is an eminently achievable task and would present a great opportunity to reiterate the importance of science in the formulation of policy in Wales, especially in light of the publication of the Science for Wales strategy in March 2012.
Please sign the pledge and spread the word across Wales! We are currently planning how to maximise the impact of delivering 60 copies of the book to the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay.
I highly recommend Mark Henderson‘s The Geek Manifesto: Why Science Matters; it is a remarkable book (see reviews here). The use of the sometimes pejorative term “geek” in the title should not trivialise the overriding message of the book: a compelling call for the scientific method to become intimately embedded into the political process (see a useful summary of this in Henderson’s recent CaSE blog post). As Stephen Curry succinctly puts it in his excellent review, while many of its themes are not new, it is difficult to imagine such a book being published as recently as five years ago.
Following an example described in the book, Dave Watts is using the PledgeBank website to send a copy of the book to all 650 MPs. Last week, Henderson confirmed that the publisher of The Geek Manifesto, Transworld Books, will match every individual pledge made. As of today, 242 people (including myself and many other geeks you may have heard of) have already signed up.
The book is currently selling on Amazon for £9.87, so by agreeing to spend a tenner — and spreading the word — you will ensure that a copy lands on the desk of two MPs once enough pledges have been collected. You can pledge to send a book here.
UPDATE: it appears that Chris Chambers, a psychologist at Cardiff University, has already sent a copy of the book to our MP, Cardiff Central’s Jenny Willott (Lib Dem). Perhaps we should consider doing the same thing for the 60 AMs in the National Assembly for Wales?
I am chairing the IADIS International Conference Applied Computing 2012 and would like to invite you for the scientific committee of this conference that will be held in Madrid, Spain (please see http://www.computing-conf.org/).
As a member of the committee, you will get some papers to review in the topics you select (topics list available http://www.computing-conf.org/topics.asp). You are entitled to be part of the proceedings book and CD-ROM and also have free entrance to the conference except if you are author or co-author of a paper and wish to present it yourself or get it published in the proceedings in case none of the co-authors registers for the conference.
Can I just ask you for a couple of names that could also be part of this committee? The idea is to increase the number of members in the committee in order to reduce the committee members’ workload.
Also, can you please send me your address so that we can send you a CD-ROM with the proceedings of this year’s edition?
Could you please let me know whether you accept this invitation the soon
Hope to see you being part of this IADIS conference.
Applied Computing 2012 Conference Chair
I frequently receive emails inviting me to submit a paper to sham conferences or journals (or, better yet, to say that my “paper” has already been accepted for publication), but this is my first programme committee invitation. Needless to say, I am honoured.
More seriously, this is a worrying (and steadily increasing) phenomenon, particularly in computer science. An example that frequently tops lists of fake conferences is WORLDCOMP (see scathing critique here); agents purportedly representing this conference recently threatened the owner of the comp.compilers list that I follow.
Let’s be clear: these are not credible outlets for disseminating academic research, so how can we rid ourselves of these deceptive venues? Echoing the sentiments of Anthony, it will not be by exposing and condemning the organisers (potentially problematic from a libel perspective), but by systematically discouraging people from submitting. Spread the word.