Links for 22nd June 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. The future of neo-eugenics. Now that many people approve the elimination of certain genetically defective fetuses, is society closer to screening all fetuses for all known mutations?

    "Usually, a fetus is only tested for a specific mutation when its family medical history indicates that there is a clear risk. If, as must often be the case, parents are oblivious to the fact that they are carriers of a genetic disorder, they will have no reason to undergo a prenatal diagnosis, which is both expensive and invasive. Fetuses are also not tested for de novo mutations. However, given that many—perhaps most—parents want healthy children, should all fetuses be screened for many disease-causing mutations?" The logic is irrefutable without resorting to a higher arbiter. Wherein lies the entire problem.

    Tagged with: eugenicsgeneticscreeningabortionethics

  2. Are we witnessing the end of science?

    "Revolutions in scientific thinking are always difficult – but perhaps one reason why we may see fewer of them in the future is because of the highly professional way in which modern science is organised. It takes a lot of courage to challenge conventionally accepted views, and it needs a certain amount of stamina to constantly battle those who want to protect the status quo. Mavericks do not do well in large organisations, which is what some scientific fields have become.

    Progress in science needs researchers who are not afraid – or who are encouraged and rewarded – to ask awkward and difficult questions of theory and of new data. It is easier to question mainstream views if you are independently wealthy, as many scientists in previous ages tended to be. But I wonder how many of us would do so if we were employed by the state and our career progression depended on the validation of our peers?" Ehsan Mahsood. Smart guy.

    Tagged with: scienceculturediscoveryprogressconformitystatefunding

  3. British Newspapers 1800-1900

    The British Library archive online; awesome resource.

    "* Millions of articles from 49 London, national and regional newspaper (1800 – 1900) titles.
    * Over two million pages – all fully text searchable with keywords in context visible in the results list.
    * 1000's of illustrations, maps, tables and photographs."

    You'd think BL staff would have known that the apostrophe in "1000's" was unnecessary, though.

    Tagged with: british-library19th-centurynewspaperarchiveonlineresourcedatabase

  4. How Science Fiction Writers Can Help, or Hurt, Homeland Security

    "I'm sure there's also an anchoring effect in operation. This is another cognitive bias, where people's numerical estimates of things are affected by numbers they've most recently thought about, even random ones. People who are given a list of three risks will think the total number of risks are lower than people who are given a list of 12 risks. So if the science fiction writers come up with 137 risks, people will believe that the number of risks is higher than they otherwise would — even if they recognize the 137 number is absurd." Schneier.

    Tagged with: Bruce-SchneierscifiterrorismsecurityforesightcognitivebiaspsychologyDHS

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