Recycled water is just water

Toowoomba residents have voted against recycled drinking water. Or as the ABC have it, “recycled effluent”. One resident, belonging to an organisation named “Citizens Against Drinking Sewage” sums it up: “”It’s just something that in Australia we should never have to consider.”
Well, the good people of Toowoomba are entitled to their opinion and it’s good to see a genuinely democratic process in action. On the other hand, this story is a sad illustration of the ignorance concerning both water usage and environmental management in this country.
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ECCB 2006 postponed

The 5th European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB 2006) has been postponed to Jan 2007. For rather obvious reasons.

Putting scientific ideals aside and being realistic – scheduling conferences in the Middle East isn’t very smart in the current geopolitical climate, is it?

Feral big cats

The ‘Lithgow panther’ in the news again. This one comes around every few years – here’s an SMH story from 2003.
The last “Big Cat” turned out to be just a “big cat”, but the evidence is mounting. And why not? If escaped wallabies can live happily in the English Peak District, I’m sure escaped panthers/pumas/jaguars (delete as appropriate) can survive in the Blue Mountains. Why don’t they just get this evidence out in the open for all to see and assess?

Perl for absolute beginners

Way, way, way back when I was starting out with Perl for the very first time, I went in search of an online tutorial for beginners. The first one that I ever found was Robert’s Perl Tutorial. Three evenings later, I had enough basic Perl to parse a BLAST report.
Google will find you many other tutorials and introductions of course, but this one deserves special mention as the one that got me started.

Busy bees

bombus1.jpgI like bees. Especially the big furry bumble bees. Here in Australia, the bumble bee is a non-native accidental introduction to Tasmania. There is talk of introducing them to the mainland, on the grounds that buzz pollination can increase agricultural yields. Have we learned nothing from the disastrous introduction of non-native species? How hard can it be to rig up some kind of vibrating wire? Or employ summer labourers with paintbrushes?
Anyway, I enjoyed this Guardian article, which tells us that bumble bees forage over a much greater range than supposed – up to almost 13 km. Or as the Guardian would have it, 8 miles. Note to science editor: science = SI base units. Coincidentally, that’s about the maximum distance that a player covers in an AFL game.

Stem cell fudge

No, not a bizarre recipe, but Stephen Hawking’s description of the EU stem cell research funding compromise. As I understand it, the deal allows for continued EU funding with conditions.

This is at least an improvement on the US situation. Exactly what kind of democracy is it where the religious convictions and misconceptions of one man can override the wishes of two-thirds of the population and their representatives? I’m really tired of this misuse of the word democracy. A society in which you’re free to say what you want is not the same as a society in which you have a say. And that, I believe, is the problem with politics the world over in our time. We really have no say in what our leaders do, save for one vote every few years.