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Showing posts from 2016

Let's talk about GMOs, series introduction.

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Introduction Over the past two weeks, I have seen the responses to my blog post and the posts of others. I see a lot of confusion on the techniques, results, safety, ethics and current application of GMOs. However, I am well aware that I do not know everything. Let's look at various aspects of GMOs and learn together.
What I want to do is to look at the entire process of GMOs. In this post, we will focus on what the concept is. What is DNA? How does it work? Can we use that for agriculture and other things? In the next post, we will look at the techniques necessary to realise that concept. This will introduce a striking difference, as a revolution towards a new and fancy technique called CRISPR/Cas9 has just taken place. 
When we know how they are made, we can look at what we are currently using them for. Can we see how the technique has been applied currently? Of course, after looking at the past and present we will move on to the future. What can we use them for? What are ideas…

Rebuke: Climate Change in 12 minutes - The Skeptic's Case

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Introduction Over on The Chronicle Flask's page, a climate change "skeptic" responded to a share of a guardian article on Trump's "crackdown of politicized science".
He shared a youtube movie, which is relatively short. I'll reply to it here. It's called Climate Change in 12 Minutes - The Skeptic's Case. It is authored by a Dr. David Evans, who is not unknown.
Rebuke The first claim is that they checked the climate models versus the latest data, and the climate models got all the major predictions wrong. Beyond the obvious request of a (peer-reviewed) citation, the claim opposes various papers. A few examples: doi:10.1038/nclimate3079: "climate sensitivity estimates have now been reconciled and are consistent with the modelled range".doi:10.1038/nclimate3066" Correcting for these biases and accounting for wider uncertainties in radiative forcing based on recent evidence, we infer an observation-based best estimate for TCR of 1.6…

On the International Monsanto Tribunal

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Introduction In October 2016, the Monsanto Tribunal, to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, crimes against humanity and ecocide, takes place in The Hague. That sounds scary and official, doesn't it?
The organic movement is organising a fake trial, set up deliberately so that people might take it seriously. For such weighty issues, it was announced early - more than a year before the event takes place. Even then, people got confused and needed to be explained that this was merely theatre
Their victims of course genuinely care for the future of humanity and the planet we inhabit. There is a rumour that the 'Modern Revolutionary' and 'Brilliant Scientist' Vandana Shiva is only asking for a first class flight and a 40 thousand speaking fee. A true bargain, and you can see how much she cares (source). The budget for the tribunal is 400 thousand euro (source) or 500 thousand euro (source), which makes you wonder what they want to use it for. Their b…

Rebuke: "On the physics of high-rise building collapses".

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Introduction A while ago, I was alerted to an article by "four physicists" in a "scientific journal". Apparently, these authors had "shown" that the conspiracy is real. Behold:
A European scientific study has concluded that on September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers were brought down by a controlled demolition. The study, conducted by four physicists and published in Europhysics Magazine, says that “the evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that all three buildings were destroyed by controlled demolition.”(your news wire)  We discussed the article briefly, mostly dismissing it because it is not a scientific study, nor is it by four physicists, and its conclusions do not follow from the evidence.

However, the conspiracy crowd seems real happy with it. The Credible Hulk, for instance, had several `truthers' all over his page (here).

I decided that, as a physicist, it would perhaps be interesting to write a rebuke of this article. Now, I'd lik…

A tale of selection

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Introduction While reading my delightful new book - which I will name at the end - I realised how only a small part of people realises all implications of natural selection.

It was Charles Darwin, in the Origin of species (By means of natural selection) that first postulated an explanation of evolution by a one mechanism of heritability and another of variability. We know both mechanisms; they are in our DNA. DNA is the mechanism of heritability, and copying errors and sexual reshuffling are the mechanism of variation.
Not too long ago, breeding was invented. By this I do not mean merely the breeding of livestock, but the deliberate selection of offspring so as to produce some sort of phenotypical change. The result are the many 'races' of dogs and cats we are familiar with. 
The first chapter of the Origin is `variation under domestication', and is essentially about breeding or artificial selection. From there, Charles Darwin leaps onto 'variation under Nature' an…