Tag Archives: science

The Wild Irish

“Politics with Hidden Bases” looked at Irish TDs, and found Fianna Fáil TDs are more likely than average to have Gaelic surnames, while Fine Gael have an above-average number of Old English surnames. The explanation offered is that in patriarchal households, so you vote like your Da, not your Ma, and the Gaels are rebels. The paper didn’t look at “every one of the 1100 TDs ever elected“, only those… Read Article →

The Conor Project

Last week Conor Lenihan planned to launch an anti-science screed. Then the taoiseach had a bad night, and the story died. But I was curious, so I sent an email to every sitting TD. Quoting the Project Steve statement, I asked three questions: Do you agree with the statement? Should evolution be part of the education curriculum? If yes, at what level? If no, why not? The response was underwhelming…. Read Article →

News talk

Yesterday, the news cycle covered Conor Lenihan’s proposed launch of a book on creationism. The science minister began by defending the gig as a favour to a friend, then the story went away when the invitation was withdrawn. This afternoon Sean Moncrieff interviewed the author, John J May. Among the tweets in response to the show were some of mine, one of which prompted Moncrieff to accuse me of censorship…. Read Article →

In the beginning was the word

There was a time when book burning mattered. Once upon a time, religions enforced dictates by burning books containing the wrong opinions. To be orthodox was, literally, to hold the right opinion. And just in case that didn’t work, heretics were burned at the stake for good measure. At the end of the medieval era, things got a bit trickier. Laborious copying by hand was replaced by mechanical printing, so… Read Article →

Failure to communicate

I attended a seminar on the chilling effects of libel this evening, hosted by the Science Gallery in TCD. Simon Singh spoke about his successful fight against the British Chiropractic Association, and Peter Wilmshurst spoke of his ongoing battle with NMT Medical, a US medical devices maker. Two lawyers also addressed the gathering. After a short break, a question and answer session followed. One contributor asked what could be done… Read Article →

It’s Alive!

This week, scientists created artificial life. Well, sort of. Truth is, once you snip away the press release puff and spin, it’s more a case that scientists copied life. Here’s how the BBC reported what happened: ‘The researchers copied an existing bacterial genome. They sequenced its genetic code and then used synthesis machines to chemically construct a copy.’ In other words, they took an existing template, tweaked it, put it… Read Article →

Junk Watch

On the final day of my holiday in Donegal, I passed by a health food store. In the window was a handwritten notice offering “herbal swine flu remedies”. Then today, the Mayo News used their twitter account to promote the same idea. ‘Beat swine fly naturally with herbal remedies.’ Oh dear! Pseudoscience has been a bugbear of mine for some time, whether it’s the homeopath selling a water bottle to… Read Article →


The European Organization for Nuclear Research – better known as CERN – plans to press a Big Red Button on Wednesday, accelerating protons to within a whisker of the speed of light then smashing them against each other to recreate conditions similar to those just after the Big Bang. Naturally, this has brought the doomsayers out in force, with claims that the Large Hadron Collider could destroy the universe. Some… Read Article →

To Infinity And Beyond

Which came first, the thought or the word? Or put another way, can you have a concept of without a word for it? In one of his Discworld novels, Terry Pratchett writes a scene in which a troll, despite a limited counting system (one, two, three, many, lots) is able to carry out sophisticated calculations. The troll works uses compounded numbers, (many-one, many-two, many-many) to uncover mathematical principles. Now the… Read Article →

Dead Planet Sketch

Poor old Pluto just can’t get a break. First it’s demoted from a plant to a dwarf planet. That’s not too bad. It’s no longer the Premiership, but at least it’s still a planet. Then the International Astronomical Union announced that dwarf plants will in future be known as plutoids. Pluto wasn’t easy to find. Percival Lowell first predicted in 1905 that something out there would explain discrepancies in the… Read Article →