Sunday, 28 June 2015
Friday, 26 June 2015
In Loughor, Rosebay willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium) was flowering. In Bynea, Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea); Ribbed melilot (Melilotus officinalis); Perforate St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) and Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus) were in bloom. In that location, there were also Blue-tailed damselflies (Ischmura elegans) and a hunting digger wasp (probably Mellinus arvensis).
Thursday, 25 June 2015
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
The Roslin Institute may be creating the world's first commercially accepted GM domestic animals (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/23/could-these-piglets-become-britains-first-commercially-viable-gm-animals). They have modified pigs, using techniques that do not involve retroviruses to transfer genes or changing antibiotic resistance, so that the pig's immune system is more like that of a warthog. African swine fever kills pigs by 'sending their immune systems into overdrive'. It also infects warthogs but they quickly recover as their immune systems respond more modestly. The hope is that the modified pigs will be healthier than their unmodified cousins and this will reduce the incidence of losses in pig colonies (which can be very high). The claim is that the only remaining obstructions to the adoption of the super pigs are legal rather than scientific
There is a disturbing account of how the FBI have reportedly used pseudoscience to convict people over decades (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/23/fbi-evidence-single-hair-kirk-odom). They apparently embraced the myth that, using simple microscopic techniques, they could demonstrate with great certainty that a single hair found at the scene of a crime was identical to that taken from a suspect (and very different from that of other individuals?). This has been challenged for decades (the technique appears to have not appealed to European police forces) but 'specialist FBI agents' apparently gave evidence in numerous court trials that led to convictions and (in some cases) executions. This is tough on jurors who presumably had to take the official assertions as gospel. After spending years in jail, at least 3 individuals convicted on this evidence have been proved to be innocent as a result of retesting using the newer genetic finger-printing techniques. Some individuals maintain that 'hair microscopy' was popular in the FBI as it 'got convictions'. It appears that resisting evidence debunking the technique was resisted by the FBI for years but thousands of convictions relying on hair microscopy may have to be re-examined (if the evidence has been retained).