Going to the 2009 BIO Convention

Today, I find myself in Atlanta Georgia. I am attending the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s 2009 International Convention, representing the Biofortified blog, and I am also the Council for Biotechnology Information’s guest blogger. You can read about what I’ll be doing here at Biofortified, but first, how did I get here?

A few months ago, the Council for Biotechnology Information contacted me and invited me to be their guest blogger for the convention. They created a news blog to report on the agriculture-related talks and panels, and offered to cover my expenses to help them report on the conference.

I’ve never been to the BIO conventions, which host presentations on more than just ag biotech issues. It would also give me the chance to promote Biofortified, get exposed to the biotech zeitgeist, and meet some interesting people. I also saw a public benefit – I could help people learn about the things going on at this conference as I learn about them. So what’s the catch? Continue reading Going to the 2009 BIO Convention

Large Hadron Collider Still Operating!

(Hat tip to Jonathan Eisen) This is big news – the Large Hadron Collider, which supposedly shut down for repairs, has been operating in secret for months now. According to the New York Times:

The giant Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most expensive scientific experiment, was not shut down for repairs as originally reported (see New Particle Collider to Be Shut for Repairs), scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva said today.

The NY Times got a tip in their mailbox, which they followed up on.

However, two weeks ago, the New York Times received an anonymous package that contained video recordings and other evidence that the accelerator was in full operation over the winter. Nobody from CERN would comment on the record about this evidence. However, two leading CERN scientists did confirm on condition of anonymity, that the accelerator was in use.

What have they been working on all this time?

Most striking, leading CERN scientists have been consulting repeatedly with prominent molecular biologists regarding apparent mutagenic properties of particles, presumably a new particle discovered in the accelerator. This has been confirmed by CERN scientists who spoke on condition of anonymity. Multiple sources have said that they believe they have found a particle that not only is highly mutagenic but appears to have an unusual affinity for DNA. The sources also stated that it was the mutagenic potential of the accelerator that led to the secrecy and false claims of a shutdown.

I’m very concerned about what this means for future operations of the LHC – if people get the idea that these scientists will lie to the public – how will people trust them down the road? Read the story for more.

Go Download This

Recently radio host Jeni Barnett went on the attack against vaccinations, revealing her utter ignorance of the relevent facts, and the logic required to analyze the issue. It would have gone unnoticed for me, and probably the rest of the internet, except when Ben Goldacre of Bad Science posted an mp3 of the show to display the wonton idiocy, Jeni’s radio station went after him, threatening to sue over copyright infringement. Jeni herself attempted to defend herself on her own site, admitting that she did not know her facts, and calling a nurse who corrected her on the air “vicious” while playing the victim.

As a result of this whole affair over the last couple days, a group of science bloggers got together, passed around the mp3, and transcribed the WHOLE THING. Take a look, but before you do, you have to hear how it sounds, so Get the mp3 from WikiLeaks while you still can!

My favorite part: Continue reading Go Download This

Human-Chimp Hybrids?

As part of the annual Edge Question, Richard Dawkins suggests that Human-Chimp Hybrids will change everything. It’s an interesting article, check it out. It certainly builds upon what I said before about human-chimp combinations.

I’d like to point out that a Human-Chimp ancestor derived from sequence data would not be a human-chimp hybrid in the same sense as a mere mixture of chromosomes, or cells in one organism. But one of the most fascinating points that Dawkins illustrates is that if all human ancestors existed in an afterlife, there would be a chain of possible interbreeding stretching from us to them. Ewww. Continue reading Human-Chimp Hybrids?

PZ Myers posts his death threats

Due to a recent scuffle over sacred sugar free cookies, science blogger PZ Myers has received a ton of hate mail and calls for his job. Of course, no one surrenders the freedom of speech when they become an employee of the government. You just don’t get to claim that the government institution that you work for supports your statements. Nevertheless, there’s been a lot of intolerance coming in the name of tolerance.

In addition to all this, several emails PZ has received contained death threats, and he has just posted two of those emails to his blog, including full IP addresses, headers, email addresses, and everything. Apparently, one of them sent this email through their work email, so now we know that they work for 1800flowers.com! Doesn’t look like they will be working there much longer. Continue reading PZ Myers posts his death threats

Cummings uninformed about biology

Over at the Ethicurean, Bonnie posted an interview with Claire Hope Cummings, that I think bears examination. Cummings is the author of the book Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds, and goes on to make several ghastly claims. Not only factual errors, but really fallacious reasoning as well. I left a lengthy comment over there, but I will reproduce it here with some of the text of the interview. Continue reading Cummings uninformed about biology

Did Hume destroy Empricism? Did Kant save science?

John McDonald, the Director of Student Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church, has stopped by my blog to drop a few comments. He has been seen previously at the Florida Citizens for Science blog prodding them with taunts and ill-informed criticisms of evolutionary science.

One of the interesting claims that he has been making repeatedly is that David Hume destroyed Empiricism, and that Immanuel Kant saved science from the pickle Hume put it in. This seemed rather odd, considering that Hume was himself an empiricist – he believed that knowledge derived through observation, rather than pure reason (Descartes et al.) was the way to go. Here are John’s comments on this topic on the KCS blog: Continue reading Did Hume destroy Empricism? Did Kant save science?

Monday Madness: NPR on the Laws of Physics

I just got an email from Jeff Shaw, my friend back in Davis who I got to know because he is the station manager for KDRT LP-FM, a low-power community radio station where I got my start on the air.

There’s been trouble brewing for quite a while about the status of low-power fm stations, which are currently considered second-class citizens next to full-power stations. A full-power commercial station can just up and sit on an LPFM station and take its spot on the radio dial if it feels like it. KDRT was at risk for being run out of town by a station called KMJE that was going to move close enough to Davis to interfere with KDRT’s signal – they are both 101.5 fm. It didn’t matter that KMJE was the one moving, KDRT would have had to shut down or be legally an “encroacher.” Fortunately, there has been such an upwelling of support for Davis’s community station that KMJE realized that they were about to piss off the new market they were trying to reach, and has backed off with intent to negotiate KDRTs continued existence. But not every LPFM station will be that fortunate.

Fortunately, the FCC is cluing into the inequities involved, and the value that small local stations have for their communities, and is looking to change the rules to give LPFM stations more security. Many media reform groups such as Prometheus Radio and The Future of Music endorse this plan, but they have one big obstacle, one enemy, that will stop at nothing to prevent LPFM stations from having a means to prevent being overrun by bigger stations that just feel like doing it. Who, might you ask? Is it the conglomeromegacommercial stations? An FCC dissenter? Rush Limbaugh?

No, it’s NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO.

Oh, they don’t just think that the FCC shouldn’t decide in favor of the low-power community stations, they claim that they have the laws of physics on their side. What? Oh get ready for some Monday Madness! Continue reading Monday Madness: NPR on the Laws of Physics

Food prices are complex

Previously, I addressed the give and take of food prices. Pam Ronald at Tomorrow’s Table also adds to the discussion:

In an editorial this week in the NYT, Paul Krugman places part of the blame for rising food prices on biofuels: “We need to pushback against biofuels that turns out to have been a terrible mistake.” But this conclusion is premature and overly simplistic.

Whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced. If we destroy rainforests and grasslands to plant food crop–based biofuels, then Krugman is right. This would be a terrible mistake. (…) Continue reading Food prices are complex

What do higher food prices bring?

A lot of interesting things are coming out of the recent upsurge in corn grain being used for ethanol production. There have been papers doubting the environmental benefits of biofuels, and all sorts of other interesting bits of news resulting from the higher price of field corn. Kirsten at The Bird’s Brain notes that popcorn has gotten a little more expensive, and Jeremy at the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog links to an article hailing the food-system benefits of more expensive food. It’s a mixed bag, but there are a few things we can expect out of all this: Continue reading What do higher food prices bring?