From the blurb: “Beyond the familiar online world that most of us inhabit – a world of Google, Hotmail, Facebook and Amazon – lies a vast and often hidden network of sites, communities and cultures where freedom is pushed to its limits, and where people can be anyone, or do anything, they want. A world that is as creative and complex as it is dangerous and disturbing. A world that is much closer than you think.”
If you’ve been using the Internet since pre-web days, as I have, you may wonder what more you could learn, having spent endless hours on bulletin boards, usenet, gopher systems and the like. Jamie Bartlett, may well open your eyes to a whole new world of neurotica from the true meaning of trolls to the doxxing of camwhores, racist-nationalist activist rants and how they spill into the real world the way to the Silk Road marketplace and the truth about some of the most disturbing abuses of humanity. From cypherpunks and cyberpunks to hackers and crackers. It’s all here, it’s all dark. He shines a light on the taboo zones and demonstrates what the darkest recesses of the online world might tell us about our real-world selves.
Bartlett is Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media. His primary research interests are: new political movements and social media research and analysis, internet cultures and security and privacy online and so more than qualified to tell us about the darkest back alleys away from the information superhighway. A gripping read, more thrilling and chilling than many a fictional tale of the digital could ever be.
Footnote: As I understand it, there have been some issues brought to light since what I assume was Bartlett’s “time-of-writing” regarding various tools and techniques taken as fact at the time that are no longer necessarily valid. For instance, I don’t think the Tor (the onion router) browser and tools are necessarily as secure and private as was originally thought (although that may be due to 3rd party interactions and user errors, it’s unclear. Neither is PGP as honourable as it once was, but who’s to know whether that’s disinformation put in place by the spooks? Indeed, there are also ongoing revelations about spying by NSA and GCHQ that put paid to some of the safe harbours for libertarians.
One minor quibble that isn’t really about the Dark Net text at all is that the idea that human communication is mostly non-verbal is wrong, that piece of Deceived Wisdom has been debunkeud repeatledly over the years.
UPDATE: Friend of the blog Nick Howe just pointed out to me that the Google car has a flight tyre, rear offside…so wasn’t “broken down”, just had a puncture to deal with…I should have spotted that but was too busy getting the composition and exposure for my photo right!
UPDATE: Daughter returning from school having collected her excellent GSCE results says there was an RAC van with the Google car, he’d actually just broken down, which would explain the driver’s surliness.
Mrs Sciencebase out and about in our village this morning alerted me to the fact that she had spotted a Google StreetView vehicle parked outside a boarded up shop on the High Street. I dashed out on my bike, camera in hand, to get a snap – watching the watchers – and hopefully have a chat with the operative. Well, I got a photo or two, but the chap with the controls was less than conversational, nervous almost, as if he’d been doing something wrong…like harvesting Wi-Fi passwords (allegedly) rather than assimilating images of the local streets. Either that or he was just a shy chap and not interested in chatting to the public…incidentally, I wonder if I’ll get a request to pixelate his number plate. Hahahah
Anyway, if you’re out and about in the village today and see him assimilating, give him the vees or a little wave depending on your mood and let’s all celebrate the wonder that is Google. Not.
The news was full of the discovery that taking some aspirin every day for ten years could somehow reduce your risk of getting cancer, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. The stomach bleeding side-effect (for some) and other as yet unknown side-effects aside, I was skeptical from the start, it just looked like a review of reviews where they looked at the idea that taking aspirin for years and years might somehow correlate with not getting cancer. To me, this is like the inverse of so many other studies that purportedly “prove” that such and such an exposure to food, pollution, toxin or whatever will “cause” cancer. Correlation is not causation.
As far as I can tell, the discovery was based on a literature review and not an actual study of the pharmacology and biochemical effects of aspirin itself. Thankfully, NHS Choices magazine, which takes a look at the science behind the headlines seems to agree. “The study was carried out by researchers from a number of institutions across Europe and the US, including Queen Mary University of London. It was funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the American Cancer Society. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Annals of Oncology.” Fine. Good.
But, says NHS Choices: “Several of the study’s authors are consultants to or have other connections with pharmaceutical companies with an interest in antiplatelet agents such as aspirin.” That’s common, and, of course, those involved in pharma research are generally connected to the industry in some way. So, not necessarily a bad thing, there are often what some might refer to as conflicts of interest in biomedical research if these are indeed conflicts here.
More worrying though, and to my mind, the real nub of the problem is what NHS Choices says about the details of the study: “It is not clear that the results are reliable from the methods reportedly used to compile this review. This is because it included studies of varying design and quality, with much of the evidence coming from observational studies, which, while useful, cannot be totally relied on to test the effectiveness of healthcare interventions.”
NHS Choices also criticises the way studies in the review were chosen: “It’s not clear how the studies included in the review were chosen and whether others on the same topic were excluded. It is also not clear whether or not this was a systematic review, where studies are rigorously appraised for their quality and criteria are established for their inclusion.”
That sounds like quite the damning indictment to me and for that reason, I for one am out.
This tweet showing a partially restored painting where 500 years of grime, varnish and earlier conservation efforts got me thinking. We usually see all these fabulous old paintings through a patina of filth and there are people trying to strip them back to the artist’s original view…but with digital images and Photoshop could this be done virtually for a whole lot of artworks. We colourise old monochrome photographs, this would be akin to that, taking the image back to what it really looked like…
More details about this specific restoration work here.
It was 20th July 1999 when I first registered the domain name sciencebase.com and transferred my old Elemental Discoveries websites from various ISP and freenet type hosts to this super hub of science. Don’t the years just fly by? At that time, I was quite serious about building up a science portal (as they were then known) and publishing regular science news, views, and interviews in what would eventually become known as the blogging format. Quite by chance 20th July was the forty-fifth anniversary of a slightly more globally significant event – the first manned moon landing.
When I blogged the 10th anniversary post in 2009, I’d delivered 1600 items on the blog part of the site, plus all the legacy pages before I started counting. The CMS tells me there are almost 2500 items on the blog now. 1600 in the first decade, and then 900 posts in the last five years. Somewhere the rate went up slightly. Although as of the last year or two my focus has been less on frequent updates to this site and more about fulfilling deadlines for various clients, and my spare time tuning up and snapping photos – hence the recent “rebranding” to Songs, Snaps and Science of this and my social media stuff.
The Science blogging is mostly here on Sciencebase.com and announced on Twitter and Facebook. My photography is most accessible via my Imaging Storm site or on Fin Art America. My music via BandCamp, although you can also find me as “Dave Bradley’s Sciencebase” on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and other music download sites.
I feel awfully guilty calling myself “the real David Bradley” now that I’ve met the actor who played Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films and William Hartnell alongside actor Brian Cox in the BBC Dr Who period drama “An Adventure in Space and Time”. I just happened to bump into him in a pub whilst we were on a camping trip to North Norfolk. I introduced myself and he was more than happy to give me an autograph, but only if I gave him mine (apparently he knew of his namesake and the book Deceived Wisdom), which was rather gratifying.
As two celebrities sharing a name and meeting for the first time, we didn’t do that whole selfie thing. Funnily enough though, my son was on an educational trip to New York City earlier in the year and bumped into actor Christopher Eccleston, who played the first Dr Who in the resurrected TV show back in the 21st Century; they did do the selfie thing. Eccleston, of course, acted alongside the other/real David Bradley in gritty 1990s TV drama Our Friends in the North. Anyway, he was a lovely chap and perhaps even almost as chuffed as I was to meet his namesake…
UPDATE: Daughter home from her trip away with friend’s family tells us she bumped into comedian Rob Brydon in the Brecon Beacons…apparently his family pushed in front of them in a cafe queue, c’leb encounters of the wurst kind
In case you didn’t know, I wear three hats: a science journalist’s green eyeshade, a backwards turned baseball cap for shooting photographs and a really trendy felt hat for writing songs…well, not really. But I have written and recorded a bunch of acoustic and electric songs perhaps reflecting my eclectic tastes and influences. Genre? That’s a tough call – acoustic indie pop-rock retro new wave electro jazz alt funk prog? That probably covers all bases.
Album on BandCamp.
Athlete, The Beatles, Daft Punk, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Elbow, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, Mumford & Sons, The Police, Gerry Rafferty, R.E.M., Nile Rodgers, Rush, The Smiths, Rod Stewart, Paul Weller, John Denver, Bacharach & David, The Who and others. Apparently, I occasionally sound like a Geordie Glenn Tilbrook, and sometimes a blend of Steely Dan and David Bowie…
When the garden lawn is covered in blooming clover (Trifolium) and the last few honeybees (Apis mellifera) that haven’t yet succumbed to colony collapse disorder are busy about their floral business, it’s probably a good idea to not walk around barefoot in the garden with one’s reading glasses on, it would help avoid all that embarrassing hopping about in blooming apitoxin-induced pain…caused mainly by melittin (Glycyl-L-isoleucylglycyl-L-alanyl-L-valyl-L-leucyl-L-lysyl-L-valyl-L-leucyl-L-threonyl-L-threonylglycyl-L-leucyl-L-prolyl-L-alanyl-L-leucyl-L-isoleucyl-L-seryl-L-tryptophyl-L-isoleucyl-L-lysyl-L-argin yl-L-lysyl-L-arginyl-L-glutaminyl-L-glutamamide)
UPDATE: Three days later. Sole of my foot is swollen, sore, red, hot to the touch and feels as if there’s a piece of tough leather just below the skin…nice…so headed to the Mayo Clinic website for their take on bee stings. Apparently, my sting is merely moderate, I can barely put my shoe on, so yeah, moderate. A mild reaction would have subsided within a few hours. Conversely, a severe reaction might involve: skin reactions, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and tongue, a weak, rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, dizziness or fainting, loss of consciousness. Thankfully, Mayo says that a moderate reaction this time does not predispose one to a severe allergic reaction on next apian encounter.
Honeybee photo by David Bradley Photographer
The three bullet points:
- Many poor farmers use low-quality local seed rather than expensive patented ones
- The Open Source Seed Initiative is offering 36 types of 14 food crops
- All seed packets contain a pledge stating that the seed can be used freely
A five-stage, and very demanding protocol, for taking a nanoscience discovery to a consumer nanotechnology product has been outlined by engineer Michael Kelly of the University of Cambridge. Kelly, who is also based at the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, explains how a clear understanding of how and why experimental silicon semiconductor and liquid crystal technology took so long to move from the laboratory bench to the manufacturing plant and mass production and consumption should underpin predictions about current nanoscience.
Kelly also explains why once a technology, such as the silicon chip, is in place it is very difficult to usurp even with advances such as conducting polymers and novel forms of carbon from buckyballs (fullerenes) and nanotubes to graphene despite the hyperbole that surrounds such novel materials. He points out that too little attention is paid to the many hurdles facing the nanoscientist hoping to be revolutionary nanotechnologist. But, his systematic protocol reveals what the aspirational need to know in making that quantum leap.
If one is working towards nanotechnology, then one must first identify the environment in which a new nanomaterial will be superior to the current state-of-the art material, otherwise the science becomes a solution looking for a problem. There are a few examples of fundamental science, the laser being a rare example, where uses are found after the fact, but, Kelly suggests that, in a burgeoning field with myriad projects and experiments final outcomes do not commonly justify the initial effort.
Secondly, it is important to identify the critical properties of the new nanomaterial and to be able to reproduce them absolutely in different samples with values to within better than 10 percent of the mean or there is no possibility of mass production. He points out that semiconductor tunnelling devices have only very recently addressed this problem.
Thirdly, a way to make the material or device with pre-specified performance and at high yield is essential from an early stage of development or again wasted raw materials will keep end product costs too high for a product to be commercially viable.
Kelly’s fourth commandment asserts that for a product, one must be able to simulate its performance from first principles and to readily invert properties at any stage of development so that it might be reverse engineered and adapted to resolve discrepancies where a device deviates from design.
Fifth and finally, even if the first four steps of the protocol are addressed adequately lifetime performance must be demonstrated as being superior to any current state-of-the art technology. He cites multi-heterojunction tandem solar cell technology as being on the cusp of serious development in this regard, one might also mention organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and their development from unstable devices in the early 1990s to fully fledged commercial technology today.
The shift from traditional manufacturing to the current developments based on novel and even designer materials means that industry now places great emphasis on product development taking place at the laboratory bench and expects much more than a one-off result before adopting new science and converting it into technology, nano or otherwise.
Kelly M.J. (2014). From nanoscience to nanotechnology: what can and what cannot be manufactured, International Journal of Nanotechnology, 11 (5/6/7/8) 441. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1504/ijnt.2014.060563
We were using Feedburner, but will be moving away from that defunct service, so if you’re an RSS subscriber, please update your reader with the following newsfeed link – http://sciencebase.com/sciencebase-blog/feed to stay up to date with Sciencebase news or subscribe by email below.
Leave Blank:Do Not Change:
Please click the link in the confirmation email you will receive, if you don’t see the email, please check your spam folder and whitelist our email address, thanks.
If you use Feedly, search for “Sciencebase”, we’re the site with the subtitle “Freelance science journalist…” or similar as opposed to the Science Based lot…click the + and add us to Feedly.
Similarly, on Google Newsstand, tap the search icon and search for Sciencebase, we should be at the top of the feeds section, just click the + sign to subscribe.
Flipboard users, again use the search function to find the Sciencebase RSS, whether you’re on iOS, Android, or in the Flipboard Chrome extension, and add it to your flips.
If your newsreader, RSS aggregator of choice is FeedSpot, then this is the link to use to follow us.
Sciencebase/David Bradley also has a Facebook page, a Youtube Channel, is active on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, WordPress, Pinterest, Digg Reader and various other social networking and social bookmarking sites, just search for Sciencebase and watch out for American imposters…this is the real, the only genuine Sciencebase from David Bradley.
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER) is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which headed for the planet Mars back in 2003 and reached their destination in January 2004.
Spirit is quiet now despite NASA’s best efforts to keep it talking. Opportunity continues to relay data. The mission’s scientific objective was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. A little poetic license was taken in these lyrics to be sung to the tune of Mancini’s “Moon River” from the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
Mars Rovers travelled ‘cross the miles
A million score or more, who can say?
Then months later, it’s Endeavour Crater
Whatever you’re scanning, we’re coming some day
Two grifters, on a new, red world
It’s such a different world to probe
Searching for life not only hope,
That oughta see them through
There’s water out there too
On that old red globe
You lost Spirit
Opportunity’s still there
Explore and let us know that some day
If our dream making isn’t heart breaking
On the old Red Planet we soon might all play
Two grifters, on a new red world
It’s such a brave, new world, you see?
That red sky at night, an astronaut’s delight
It’s well within the sight of NASA’s little mites,
Mars Rovers and me
Many readers will probably be aware that actress and model Farrah Fawcett died in 2009 of anal cancer. But a recent update from Cancer Research UK revealed that anal cancer rates in the UK have increased by nearly 300% over the last 40 years. The increase is much higher in women than in men, rising from 4 in a million to 18 in a million for females (4 to 12 in a million in males). Presumably, similar increases are seen elsewhere in other countries.
Experts believe the reason for the dramatic rise is likely to be caused by the increasing prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that is usually transmitted through sexual activity. An estimated 90 per cent of anal cancer cases in the UK are linked to HPV infection.
Now, this is a mixed taboo subject, cancer, sex, disease, bumholes etc. Perhaps not a topic for the family dinner table, but certainly one that should be broached more readily. If shifting sexual practices are largely to blame, then sexually active people ought to know more about HPV and the fact that it can cause cancer of any entry point in the body.
A recent tweet from @RealMissChief today remarked on a tattoo a female displayed on her lower back that she saw in a bar. The tattoo was actually of stars but RMC wittily interpreted this to mean “I do butt stuff”. Maybe the tattooee does or doesn’t we will never know, but either way we can but hope that she uses protection if she does that kind of “butt stuf”, or at the very least knows her partners’ HPV status. This anecdote does offer a putative tabloid scare story about how getting a tat on your lower back could lead to anal cancer. But, while it might be flippant to suggest such a thing, perhaps the increasing proclivity for such body art simply correlates with general shifting attitudes towards sex at a time when HPV is prevalent. The numbers are small but worryingly on the increase…
I don’t like that red, upper case “A” that so many people wear on their web and social media presence as some kind of skeptical badge of honour. But, the atheist tag has just too much baggage (thank you Prof Dawkins and others) and implies too much about one’s philosophy that might not apply.
Moreover, critics of atheism and the so-called “atheist movement” (generally those who simply believe in at least one more god than any true atheist) will commonly complain that most atheists are agnostics or some such. There is also a backlash against the term that seems to imply that atheism itself is a belief system, a religion even. Atheism, of course, is as much a belief system or religion as not going for a jog is a form of exercise or eating a bacon butty is a type of vegetarianism, irrespecive of what the non-skeptics and religious claim. Other analogies: “bald” is a hair colour, “off” is a TV channel…
The problem that many skeptics, rationalists, realists, the scientifically minded, have with religion, it seems, is the division between themselves and their search for truth that uses an evidence-based understanding of reality (observations that are reproducible and testable against the theory that explains them) as opposed to the religious who may simply believe and do not need any evidence (other than the words in ancient books or certain feelings). They have faith. If evidence were available to support the existence of a god, then the rationalists would have to update their theory of reality and subsume that evidence into it. That’s how science works.
So, rather than plastering that inflammatory red atheist-A on a website, how about something more a little more diplomatic that gets the message across just the same? A badge that does not exclude new evidence, but simply takes nothing on faith…
If the graphic catches your imagination feel free to modify and use it on your site.
I’ve written about the CAS Registry – the enormous database of small and large molecules – on several occasions over my quarter of a century in science communication. It usually comes up when they reach a milestone. Indeed, I remember writing about the day they registered their 10 millionth structure, that was either in The Guardian or New Scientist, don’t remember, it was the early 1990s. I wrote about it much more recently here on the Sciencebase blog back in September 2009 when they reached 50 million structures. How can there be so many chemicals, surely we are approaching some kind of limit? Well, no. We are nowhere near.
As, Daniel Merkle of the University of Southern Denmark, in Odense, and colleagues point out in a recent issue of the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design, the chemical space of possible molecules is vast, really vast. I just checked CAS and their most recent press release mentioned them passing the 75 million structure landmark in November 2013.
But, their homepage mentions 87 million unique organic and inorganic chemical substances, such as alloys, coordination compounds, minerals, mixtures, polymers and salts, and more than 65 million protein sequences. The allusion being that there are other databases the entries from which may well not even be represented by the CAS registration information. But, even these tens of millions pale into negligibility when compared to the almost 200 billion possible structures that might be constructed with up to 17 atoms of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and the halogens (fluorine, bromine, chlorine, iodine…)
“The chemical universe of molecules reachable from a set of start compounds by iterative application of a finite number of reactions is vast,” Merkle and colleagues say. They point out that highly sophisticated and efficient exploration strategies are needed to allow chemists to explore this combinatorial complexity in the quest for novel molecules that diverge in structure from the many known compounds and might thus have previously unreported properties, or more critically for organic and medicinal chemists, physiological activity.
The team has now devised a new approach to chemical space exploration based on the structural graph of possible molecules, the mutual connectivity and arrangement of the atoms within the molecule represented by its chemical formula. If the atoms are vertex labels in the graph and the chemical bonds holding them together “edges”, then a chemical reaction can be defined and described as a graph transformation from one graph to another. Thus chemical space might be explored in terms of possible transformations from a starting material to a range of possible products. The graph grammar is encapsulated in the reaction mechanisms that give rise to the transformations. Of course, chemical space might be infinite if we allow polymers, where individual molecules, monomeric building blocks, are simply strung together in arbitrary numbers. But, polymers aside, the space remains vast and so efficient methods are needed to map plausible graph transformations and yield a new virtual registry of possible structures that might be accessed by synthetic organic chemistry.
The team has demonstrated proof of principle with key examples of complex reaction networks from carbohydrate chemistry and shown that their approach produces a feasible high-level strategy for generating possible new molecules. It might even help chemists get to that 100 million in the CAS Registry, although it will still be barely a dent in the billions upon billions* of molecules in chemical space.
Andersen, J.L., Flamm, C., Merkle, D. and Stadler, P.F. (2014) ‘Generic strategies for chemical space exploration’, Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 7, Nos. 2/3, pp.225-258.
*With a nod and a wink to the late, great Carl Sagan.
We can assume that the lungs on the left, the tarry, almost charred-looking air bags, from a smoker, led to their premature demise through COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition that used to go by the name of chronic bronchitis with emphysema, also occasionally referred to as COLD, chronic obstructive lung disease and chronic obstructive airway disease, COAD), or perhaps they succumbed to lung cancer, cancer of the oral cavity, the throat, the trachea, the oesophagus, the stomach, the live, the pancreas, the kidneys, all of which have raised incidence in smokers. Maybe they died of heart failure or a stroke. Smoking is often part of an unhealthy lifestyle and so the person may also have had Type 2 diabetes due to obesity and all that those two conditions bring with them, who knows? [Presumably, the pathologist who hacked out the lungs, Ed.] But, what about those puffy pink lungs? What did that person die of…?
If we’re measuring out our lives in coffee spoons, then please hold the cinammon, maple syrup, sprinkles etc and don’t bother with the fern or shamrock, this ain’t a pint of Guinness…I just want a straight, white coffee thank you very much.
Incidentally, according to the latest overhyped press release from any old university/medical research centre, coffee is really good/bad for you, causes/cures cancer, contains beneficial/harmful antioxidants, causes/doesn’t cause boils, asthma, headaches, hives, athlete’s foot, alopecia, halitosis (delete as applicable).
No sprinkles with my skinny moccachocafrappadongacino, thanks is a post from the science blog of David Bradley, author of Deceived Wisdom Subscribe to our Email Newsletter
Does anyone remember Yahoo Groups? Back on 29th June 2001 I used their free service to set up a newsletter for the Sciencebase website. I diligently sent out updates every week or two for many years to well over 1000 members at its height. Numbers have dwindled, not because anyone deliberately unsubscribed but simply as old email addresses grow lame and ultimately bounce when people change institution or ISP.
Anyway, there are still 777 members, which sounds almost heavenly, in the way that 666 sounds devilish. I still occasionally send out science news snippets to them but never hear back from anyone in the group other than the occasional spammer attempting to post some marketing #BS.
Anyway, if you are or were on the list and ultimately found your way to this site and perhaps subscribed to the RSS once that became the norm after Yahoo Groups and Usenet and stuff became less well used to people, do give me a shout out, here, on twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc.
Almost 2% of the people I sent the latest message to clicked the link to my new album in the update…is that a decent hit rate? Probably twice as many as I’d have expected in the modern world of electronic marketing…but if only one of those thought about buying the album, then maybe it’s not worth the time? What do you think?
As you may have noticed, Reactive Reports has been somewhat less active than it was during its golden years, 1999 to 2009. I am still writing lots about chemistry and science in general, but updating the various blogs and websites where there is no longer a commissioning editor, as it were, has had to take a backseat in preference to the writing that pays the bills in order to allow me to indulge my other creative passions – music and photography.
I’ve always used some of my own photos where I could to illustrate blogs, news and features and websites, you can see some of my recent albums via my flickr pages. During the last year or so I have been fine-tuning (hahah) my songwriting and production skills to put together an eclectic collection of originals, some acoustic and folky, some electric and indie, a few funky, and one a bit long and proggy. Anyway, the fruits of that musical labour are now available from the usual online musical outlets including BandCamp.