28.05.10

Science Friday: A legal Singh along, genius, hype, and implants

Savannah hypothesis on standing up... stands up

Between Ida, and other hyped-up anthropological breakthroughs over the past couple years, you may or may not have noticed Ardi: a skeleton so fragmented that it was 17 years before scientists finished reconstructing and analysing it.  But Ardi was reputed to overturn the Savannah hypothesis-- specifically that human ancestors developed bipedalism at least partly because their environment changed, or they moved, from forest to savanna.

A Paper in Science today claims that Ardi's environment was indeed savanna, not forest as the researchers had claimed, and does not therefore overturn the savanna hypothesis. Read more at the NYTimes, or LiveScience.com.

A moment of pure genius

It probably happens every time you get a dose of caffeine at the Science Gallery cafe (we have a new menu you need to try btw), but if you're in the mood for a cerebral pick-me-up, check out the BBC's Moments of Genius, with people like Stephen Fry, Brian Eno, and Caroline Lucas discussing their favorite moments in the history of science.  Ireland-friendly; no BBC IPlayer required.

The baddest body mod

Man infects self with computer virus. A bit masochistic, if artistic and slightly philosophical.  Personally I'd rather rare earth magnets implanted in me than RFIDs.  I mean, you could do this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QTuKhMBxWU

Legal Singh along

The Libel Chill event last night was a fascinating, sold-out presentation, discussion, and debate.  Simon Singh, who successfully defended himself after a two-year libel battle with the British Chiropractic Association spoke about his ordeal, and how the intimidation and expense of defending a lawsuit is dissuading scientists from doing science. Singh's lawyer Robert Dougans, an Associate at Bryan Cave LLP, and the Times "Lawyer of the week", was there, pointing out that the 1998 UK Human Rights Act appears to have made libel law even more confusing and dysfunctional than it already is.

Cardiologist Peter Wilmshurst,  who is currently being sued for libel in the biggest ongoing medical libel case, spoke about how the current state of libel laws could put medical doctors in a position forcing them to disobey their Hippocratic oath.  Wilmshurst's lawyer Mark Lewis,  said libel laws are not only having a chilling effect on science, but a 'killing effect' by potentially preventing much-needed medical queries and critiques.  He also noted that Libel law is so pre-web, that it's barely modern enough to properly apply to the written word much less the internet, and that it belongs more to an era where libel proceedings were a tool to avoid duels.

Some great issues were raised by the audience, including, whether the issue is confined to science? Singh responded, saying that the impetus for libel reform may have begun with scientific issues, but that it crosses disciplines, and the libel chill concerns people in many fields-- not just science, though that's where it is currently getting attention.

We'll post a video of the talk soon, but in the mean time, if you want more information on the issue of libel reform, check out http://libelreform.org/

UPDATE: Libel Chill event covered in today's Irish Times.

The beginning (and end) of Crochet Coral

If you liked Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, come see the godmother who's discovery made it all possible: Daina Taimina speaks at Science Gallery on Wednesday June 2nd.

And remember, HCCR finishes June 11th, so be sure to stop in before the reef is gone!

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