From Maryn McKenna of Wired:

“A couple of unpleasant and deeply dismaying things have happened in the science blogosphere in the past 36 hours or so. I’m posting on it, along with a growing number of other science bloggers, in order to stand in solidarity with a fellow blogger and to ensure her voice is not silenced.”

The treatment of women in science and technology needs to change. I stand with Dr Lee



Supreme Court: police may take DNA samples after felony arrests, even before conviction | The Verge.

I’m left with mixed feelings about this ruling. On the one side I’m all for using DNA evidence to both prove innocence and guilt and once convicted of a felony, I have very little sympathy. Alternatively I’m left disappointed that this will open the way to abuse of the system if all it takes is a simple arrest to collect one’s DNA without any burden of proof. Sure this is why the courts are there, to clarify existing law, but I am then left to hope the legislature can get its act together and put protections in place.

This goes beyond just fingerprinting as DNA is arguably something much more personal and more revealing of ourselves then any other data someone could collect about one’s self. A database of innocent citizens’ DNA is something that is just asking to be used in the wrong way.

Be Professional

I was reading Adria Richards’ blog post about her experience at PyCon, and while fascinating, its the inevitable comments that follow that leave me disappointed. As a geek I understand the cliquish nature we have in groups and our use of language, in this case sexist jokes, as a way to strengthen those ties but on the flip side that only serves to set boundaries that exclude. Maybe, and only for the sake of argument, maybe this would be acceptable in a more private setting, but this was a public event. A developer convention where professionals come to join in their community and learn and network and otherwise be friendly. I also stress the professional aspect as its been detailed that these individuals were wearing their company logo which should immediately put one into the state of mind that you are representing that company.

Also to those who some how blame Adria for an individual being let go from their company is absurd. That is a decision entirely left up to the company’s management in response to their employee’s behavior. If this incident had happened within the setting of the workplace and had the same outcome, and somehow became public, would such an argument hold up? I don’t think so.

As for the public outing of these individuals, I’m still on the fence. It should be expected now in today’s social media world that any photo taken will end up online. Should Adria have send a private message to the PyCon crew? I dont know. But should she just have sat there and taken it? No, not at all and by making the picture public, these individuals are then left to be disciplined by their community. Any action by their employers is between them and should be left there.

So be mindful of your surroundings and be more inclusive, you’ll make more friends that way and that is always more fun then some joke.

Science Found Guilty: A Rant

Science is inherently full of uncertainties and unknowable quantities and sometimes all we have to work with are the most simple of models. So the idea of holding a scientist responsible for the certainty or lack there of in the interpretation of data is abhorrent. Yet that is just what happened today as an Italian court has convicted six seismologists of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory” information.

Wow, if thats the case, they should throw all the meteorologists in jail too. In such a field like seismology, all one can do is provide a best educated guess. Its the very nature of the earth to not know what goes on miles beneath our feet because we have yet to find a way to be down there and take measurements. And at risk of taking an analogy too far, the nature of measurement is also uncertain.

I hope this ruling does not stand or else, at least in Italy, risk a return to the dark ages.

End Rant.

ps: it should probably be noted that unenforced buildings that collapsed are the cause of death in many earthquakes.

London Riots: Social Media To Blame?

Don’t call me an expert, these are just my rambling thoughts. With recent word of the authorities in GB wanting to lock down social networking sites, in much the same way that was seen in Egypt, is nothing new. I understand the need to reestablish order(why was it lost to begin with?) but curtailing our free speech is just asking for trouble. I’m not supporting their use of this technology to cause further damage, but like most anything, its a double edged sword. I hope they are wise enough to see that this new form of communication is more good then bad and will not restrict access simply because a situation turns tough.

Can Google+ stand up to Facebook?

So Google has introduced their answer(not their first) to social networking and I’m left scratching my head. I get the concept, its like Facebook, but its Google. My question is, will people use it? Thats part of what makes a social networking site viable is if I can get the people I want in my network to use it. The premise I think is, “Well everyone already has a gmail, so no problem.” I’m still not sure.

Though the “Hangout” feature is something nice that Facebook doesn’t have, built in video conferencing. And so far from the testers, word is its rather good. Better then Skype’s paid option.  Also nice to see is the “Circles” concept. Facebook/Twitter has their lists, but this is conceptually closer to the idea of a network. As a user I should be able to put people into different groups and share content based on who I want to share it with, very much as in real life. In Facebook, this is possible, but its very clunky, and by default it treats everyone I add as a friend as equal. Sadly thats not true, and while I go through the trouble of organizing my contacts, others don’t and so the news is full of people sharing things they didn’t mean for someone else to see.

I’ve yet to apply for the field test, so go and read what the folks at Lifehacker have to say with their hands on experience.

Is college a waste of time?

That totally depends on how you value it. As of late, the idea that college is a waste has been making its rounds in the media and I leaves me depressed. I totally get the idea that in these economically hard times, can we afford to send a child to college and hope they recoup the investment. But I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.

If you are here to make money, then yes, maybe college isn’t the best place. Maybe its better for you elsewhere, but don’t knock it for the rest of us who come here to learn. I started off as a physics major then moved to mathematics. I love the subject and yes at times some of these proofs make me want to die, but I get an enjoyment out of it. Ultimately I’m probably going to get a job in the IT field. Why? Because I currently am the system administrator that runs a HPC cluster. Those skills will make me the money, but I just enjoy math.

People go to college for many reasons, money being one of them. The thing is, to really make it in this world, it takes skills. Skills can’t be taught, only earned through experience. The best way to get skills is to sit down and learn something, and hands on is included in that. And back to money, the really high paying jobs out there take both skill and knowledge, which definitely means learning something.

So if you have a goal, then go for it. But once you reach it, don’t make blanket statements based on your singular experience. Everyone has different goals and they all have their own way of making it there.