Friday, 6 December 2013
Thursday, 5 December 2013
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2013/dec/03/chimpanzees-human-rights-us-lawyer) that a 'human rights lawyer', Steven M. Wise is petitioning for chimpanzees to be granted protection from 'unlawful detention' and be freed. I have much sympathy with the plight of (genetically) our closest relatives on the planet and there is little doubt that some animals are kept in inappropriate conditions but there are a few problems with this move. Giving 'human rights' on the basis of genetic commonality is a bit arbitrary (we share 30% of genes with yeast) and, as many people have pointed out, rights generally imply responsibilities (difficult to enforce in non-humans). Where would the captive 'chimps' be released to? Chimpanzees are powerful animals and beasts that have been in captivity for periods of time would find it extraordinarily difficult to survive in 'wild' locations, even if appropriate locations can be found (even then substantial and expensive pre-release training is needed). A blanket ban on captivity might also make a range of conservation attempts directed to this species very difficult. It seems to me that what we need is enlightened and humane treatment of animals rather than lawyer's devices.
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/28/boris-johnson-iq-intelligence-gordon-gekko ) but I find myself compelled to comment (in spite of it striking me as self-serving). I 'failed' (actually I was classed as 'borderline') my 11+ twice (once at 11 and once at 13). In mitigation, I was on strong medication (phenobarbitone) at the time. To continue with the fishing analogy, I remember being confused by a particular question in the General Intelligence section circa 1956. "Which one of the following is the odd one out? Whale, kipper, salmon, cod or plaice?" Even Molesworth 'knos' it could be any. A mammal, a smoked food, a fish with myoglobin migrating between fresh and salt water, a pelagic fish with white flesh captured by trawlling and a bottom dwelling fish with both eyes on one side of the body! What is a biology-mad kid to make of this? Relegated to a Secondary Modern, I luckily received unpaid coaching from a teacher (Mr Cooper in his spare time) with 2 English 'O-levels' and managed another 3 in addition, enabling me to do 'A' levels at a Technical College (granddad paid for my text books). This mean't I was the first member of my family to go to University (again, luckily, Hull didn't require a Modern Language- I hadn't done one). Obtaining a first class honours degree, mean't I was given the only available studentship to do a PhD. I then became a University academic, generating more than 200 peer-reviewed papers, helped write the 1st 2 QAA benchmarks for Biosciences, became President of an International Society and helped edit an International journal for more than 30 years etc. It seems to me, that early allocation to the 'select' and 'reject' groups is not always 100% accurate.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25090033 ). In fairness, even the people who run the tests point out some of the problems (e.g. some languages are more phonetic than others, some countries show big geographical diversities in attainment, different levels of extra-curricular coaching is evident in some groups, happiness doesn't always equate with success in the tests, many subjects are not tested, the tests don't attempt to measure creativity etc, etc). Yet everytime these tables are published, the media and politicians of all stripes go bananas. The power of a table!
Sunday, 24 November 2013
http://thepigidea.org/ ) that, rather than putting food waste into land fill, it should be heat-treated (to remove potential pathogens) before being used to feed pigs. Food waste, in the UK, used to be used in this fashion but people became resistant to the idea in Europe as a result of the 'mad cow' debacle. Pigs are fattened on human food waste in several states of the USA and in a number of non-European countries. It is argued that using food waste here would reduce the amount of soya etc that has to be grown to feed pigs in areas like ex-rainforest zones of Brazil. I personally think that this is a reasonable idea but it might be difficult to ensure that all pig rearers effectively and efficiently heat-treated the material before feeding it to their animals.