Time travellers caught on film

24 04 2010

Look at the picture below. This is quite likely an actual unedited 1940s photograph of the reopening of a bridge in British Columbia.

Can you spot the alleged time traveler?

What are your immediate thoughts and explanations?

Full story and investigation at forgetomori. It probably is not a hoax. But it also probably is not time travel. And it is interesting nonetheless.

Interesting quote on the ‘why then and there’ skeptical thinking: “Of course, because we know nothing happened there right? But if we are considering time travel, how can we know if in some other timeline something historical happened right there?”


Name your job

12 07 2009

One of the final pieces I need to line up is part time work while I study, if only to minimise my need to deal with Centrelink.

This means dusting off and brushing up the old resumé… and making myself as appealing as possible to employers.

Something interesting in my “to post” box was some research out of Canada that showed employers are discriminating against persons with non-English names that might be perceived as difficult to pronounce. If you’d like to see the names they used, the actual working paper here: Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labor Market? A Field Experiment with Six Thousand Resumes.

A few weeks after I read this item, the story circulated in the Australian press, this time citing an Australian study from ANU that used only 4,000 resumes. Headlines abounded stating that Australian bosses were racist.

Now this may be fair conclusion, but it neglects to mention that this scenario is the same any where – someone with a local sounding name is always more likely to be hired (the Australian study found that Italian surnames were no hinderance in Melbourne, a city with Australia’s largest Italian community). This does not mean it’s an okay practice, but it is something to consider.

Is there a doctor in House?

20 04 2009


I’m not a particular fan of medical TV Shows – okay, who doesn’t like Scrubs – I guess I mean medical dramas.

Too many plots and too many issues, and perhaps occasionally a little overdramatic when it comes to scientific accuracy (something you can hardly fault a comedy for).

So it does intrigue me that medical dramas like House and Gray’s Anatomy are being considered educational tools in medical hospitals. No, not on how to perform an Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction- but precisely about those plots and issues that seem superfluous to the medicine.

Read the rest of this entry »

Armchair biologists

30 12 2008

Can armchair biology work?

Armchair science is where science began. Before organised and well funded institutes were about, a lot of scientists were self funded home-based ventures.

Science at home has suffered a few setbacks. They took the fun stuff out of chemistry kits. And even if you do find a decent kit, you might be arrested for making drugs and/or explosives under terrorism laws.

So chemistry as a hobby is expensive, hazardous and possibly illegal.

What about biology?

There is a little discussion at the sci-borg collective about recent news that people are attempting molecular biology (cloning, design-your-own organisms) at home.

Pure Pedantry thinks it won’t end the world. Which is fair to say. But Discovering Biology in a Digital World points out some of the real dangers. Namely, cloning usually involves potential pathogenic organisms and antibiotic resistance – not the best things to be playing around in your kitchen.

While it’s cool that people are enthusiastic about science and wanting to engage in future technologies, it’s good to remember there was a reason further than mere regulation and technophobia over why chemistry kits got dumbed down. Some science stuff isn’t safe to be messing about with at home. Particularly in your kitchen where you prepare your food.

Science that deals with microbes, carcinogens and cold storage really needs a dedicated space. That’s why I like the idea of Community Centers with lab-rooms and storage for hire, along with amateur training courses. This sort of activity should definitely be encouraged.

The best thing about future technology though is that these days biology can be done on a computer over the internet. Bioinformatics at home is a very safe, low labour activity that really only needs a computer and an internet connection.

While I too am skeptical of amatuers making “new vaccines”. I do think some more “simple” breakthroughs are possible –  bio-based tools such as biofuels, indicators and environmental solutions – remember that Canadian kid who developed bacteria that break down plastic bag polymers.

Anti-vaccinationists winning the war against healthy children

21 09 2008

Re-emergence of diseases like measles and mumps amongst Canadian communities (see Respectful Insolence) is starting to show what the totally unfounded (see The Stats Blog)  fear surrounding the MMR and other children’s vaccines has the propensity to cause.

I also had a link to similar outbreaks emerging in the UK. Outbreaks in other parts of the world are also likely to happen.

Part of reading this stories has helped me learn another horrible fact about the ramifications of less children being vaccinated. It does not just affect children who aren’t being vaccinated. Vaccination relies upon a concept called “herd immunity”.

We all have heard how vaccines aren’t 100% effective in the first place. This is an anti-vaccinationists selling point. Every time you are exposed to the contagion there is a chance of your vaccine failing. Think of it like brakes on your car, you can only be in so many “near-miss” situations before you bang something.

The idea of mass vaccination is to reduce the number of gambles. If every child is vaccinated, there is virtually no entry point for the contagion to enter your community. Every unvaccinated child is a bad driver on the road with no brakes. Not only are they relying on the brakes on your car to reduce danger to their children, they are an additional risk that your children need to avoid.

Some savvy parents are taking this into mind. Daycares that allow unvaccinated children (or do not have data on enrolment vaccines) are seeing health informed parents remove their children to other institutions that provide. The link I lost had a story of a mother who found out one of her children’s friends mothers had bought into the anti-vaccinist screed – and promptly stopped their children playing. A similar incident is found on MSNBC:

Karey Williams [47, Chicago] never thought a parenting decision would come between her and a good friend. The two had known one another for a decade, supported each other through infertility treatment and had their first babies around the same time. But when she told the friend that she had stopped vaccinating her daughter at age 1, the relationship abruptly ended. “She said, ‘Well then, your child can’t come into my house,’”

You might think this is harsh. But these are serious deadly diseases, no parent should be reprimanded for ensuring the health of their children. Lifelong complications (such as deafness) are very very common amongst victims of these diseases.

The positive impact of mass vaccination has a very clear and positive record. Science-Based Medicine has put up the stats for major vaccines. All of them have efficacy rates of over 80%, and save thousands of lives every year (if not more). And none of them have autism as a proven side effect. Science-Based Medicine’s author, Mark Crislip also points out that if GP/Big Pharma was really some sort of evil diabolical institution, they’d be joining the anti-vaccinists. More vaccines, means less disease. Less disease, means less business.

“I am an Infectious Disease doctor. I make a living from treating diagnosing and treating infections. I don’t make dime one if people do not get infected, so I am against any and all vaccines as they cut into my bottom line” – Mark Crislip, Science-Based Medicine weblog

Mandatory safety measures such as bicycle helmets, seat belts, standardised testing of car breaks are important for road safety. Shouldn’t similar safety measures be mandated for children’s health and safety.