position:scientist

  • Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’ | Environment | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/15/insect-collapse-we-are-destroying-our-life-support-systems

    Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished

    “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.”

  • Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/06/24/liu-cixins-war-of-the-worlds

    As the standoff has intensified, Liu has become wary of touting the geopolitical underpinnings of his work. In November, when I accompanied him on a trip to Washington, D.C.—he was picking up the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Award for Imagination in Service to Society—he briskly dismissed the idea that fiction could serve as commentary on history or on current affairs. “The whole point is to escape the real world!” he said. Still, the kind of reader he attracts suggests otherwise: Chinese tech entrepreneurs discuss the Hobbesian vision of the trilogy as a metaphor for cutthroat competition in the corporate world; other fans include Barack Obama, who met Liu in Beijing two years ago, and Mark Zuckerberg. Liu’s international career has become a source of national pride. In 2015, China’s then Vice-President, Li Yuanchao, invited Liu to Zhongnanhai—an off-limits complex of government accommodation sometimes compared to the Kremlin—to discuss the books and showed Liu his own copies, which were dense with highlights and annotations.

    Liu’s tomes—they tend to be tomes—have been translated into more than twenty languages, and the trilogy has sold some eight million copies worldwide. He has won China’s highest honor for science-fiction writing, the Galaxy Award, nine times, and in 2015 he became the first Asian writer to win the Hugo Award, the most prestigious international science-fiction prize. In China, one of his stories has been a set text in the gao kao—the notoriously competitive college-entrance exams that determine the fate of ten million pupils annually; another has appeared in the national seventh-grade-curriculum textbook. When a reporter recently challenged Liu to answer the middle-school questions about the “meaning” and the “central themes” of his story, he didn’t get a single one right. “I’m a writer,” he told me, with a shrug. “I don’t begin with some conceit in mind. I’m just trying to tell a good story.”

    The trilogy’s success has been credited with establishing sci-fi, once marginalized in China, as a mainstream taste. Liu believes that this trend signals a deeper shift in the Chinese mind-set—that technological advances have spurred a new excitement about the possibilities of cosmic exploration. The trilogy commands a huge following among aerospace engineers and cosmologists; one scientist wrote an explanatory guide, “The Physics of Three Body.” Some years ago, China’s aerospace agency asked Liu, whose first career was as a computer engineer in the hydropower industry, to address technicians and engineers about ways that “sci-fi thinking” could be harnessed to produce more imaginative approaches to scientific problems. More recently, he was invited to inspect a colossal new radio dish, one of whose purposes is to detect extraterrestrial communications. Its engineers had been sending Liu updates on the project and effusive expressions of admiration.
    “We’re looking for someone who can be very naughty when left alone, and your name kept popping up in our database.”

    Earlier this year, soon after a Chinese lunar rover achieved the unprecedented feat of landing on the dark side of the moon, an adaptation of Liu’s short story “The Wandering Earth” earned nearly half a billion dollars in its first ten days of release, eventually becoming China’s second-highest-grossing film ever. A headline in the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, jubilantly summed up the mood: “Only the Chinese Can Save the Planet!”

    Liu was born in 1963 in Beijing, where his father was a manager at the Coal Mine Design Institute and his mother was an elementary-school teacher. His father’s family came from the plains of Henan Province, in the Yellow River Basin, a region that suffered particularly dire calamities in the twentieth century. After the Japanese invaded China, in 1937—interrupting a civil war between Nationalists and Communists that had been raging for a decade—Henan became a vital strategic point in the Nationalist government’s attempt to prevent them from sweeping south. Chinese forces breached dikes on the Yellow River to halt the Japanese advance, but the resulting flood destroyed thousands of villages and killed hundreds of thousands of people. It also ruined vast areas of farmland; the next harvest was a fraction of the expected yield. In 1942-43, after the government failed to respond to the shortage, some two million people starved to death.

    When the civil war resumed, after the Second World War, both sides conscripted men. Liu’s paternal grandparents had two sons and no ideological allegiance to either side, and, in the hope of preserving the family line, they took a chilling but pragmatic gamble. One son joined the Nationalists and the other, Liu’s father, joined the Communists. He rose to the rank of company commander in the Eighth Route Army, and, after the Communist victory, he began his career in Beijing. To this day, Liu doesn’t know what became of his uncle.

    Je comprends mieux, Lui a lu un de mes livres d’enfance préféré.

    Meanwhile, his father had turned him on to speculative fiction, giving him a copy of Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” To the young Liu, reading Verne’s book was like walking through a door to another world. “Everything in it was described with such authority and scrupulous attention to detail that I thought it had to be real,” Liu told me.

    The great flourishing of science fiction in the West at the end of the nineteenth century occurred alongside unprecedented technological progress and the proliferation of the popular press—transformations that were fundamental to the development of the genre. As the British Empire expanded and the United States began to assert its power around the world, British and American writers invented tales of space travel as seen through a lens of imperial appropriation, in which technological superiority brought about territorial conquest. Extraterrestrials were often a proxy for human beings of different creeds or races.

    Types are central to the way Liu thinks of people; he has a knack for quickly sketching the various classes that make up Chinese society. A scientist is described as “nothing more than a typical intellectual of the period: cautious, timid, seeking only to protect himself.” Another character, “a typical political cadre of the time,” had “an extremely keen sense for politics and saw everything through an ideological lens.” This characteristic endows his fiction with a sociopolitical specificity that has the texture of reality. At the same time, it doesn’t allow for much emotional complexity, and Liu has been criticized for peopling his books with characters who seem like cardboard cutouts installed in magnificent dioramas. Liu readily admits to the charge. “I did not begin writing for love of literature,” he told me. “I did so for love of science.”

    August Cole, a co-author of “Ghost Fleet,” a techno-thriller about a war between the U.S. and China, told me that, for him, Liu’s work was crucial to understanding contemporary China, “because it synthesizes multiple angles of looking at the country, from the anthropological to the political to the social.” Although physics furnishes the novels’ premises, it is politics that drives the plots. At every turn, the characters are forced to make brutal calculations in which moral absolutism is pitted against the greater good. In their pursuit of survival, men and women employ Machiavellian game theory and adopt a bleak consequentialism. In Liu’s fictional universe, idealism is fatal and kindness an exorbitant luxury. As one general says in the trilogy, “In a time of war, we can’t afford to be too scrupulous.” Indeed, it is usually when people do not play by the rules of Realpolitik that the most lives are lost.

    #Science_fiction #Liu_Cixin

  • Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies
    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01770-x

    Je n’ai pas réussi à extraire une simple partie de ce texte, tant l’ensemble me semble complètement hors-jeu. Je partage l’avis de l’auteur de l’article : la folie et l’hubris scientifiques se serrent la main dans le dos de l’humanité. Choisir de surcroit des femmes en difficulté (HIV positive) est bien dans la lignée machiste d’une science qui impose plus qu’elle ne propose.

    La guerre internationale à la réputation, la course à « être le premier » (ici le masculin s’impose), la science sans conscience ne peuvent que provoquer ce genre de dérives. Il faudra réfléchir à une « slow science » et à un réel partage des découvertes, qui permettrait de prendre le temps du recul, et qui pourrait associer la société civile (ici au sens de celle qui n’est pas engagée dans la guerre des sciences).

    The proposal follows a Chinese scientist who claimed to have created twins from edited embryos last year.
    David Cyranoski

    Denis Rebrikov

    Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov is planning controversial gene-editing experiments in HIV-positive women.

    A Russian scientist says he is planning to produce gene-edited babies, an act that would make him only the second person known to have done this. It would also fly in the face of the scientific consensus that such experiments should be banned until an international ethical framework has agreed on the circumstances and safety measures that would justify them.

    Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov has told Nature he is considering implanting gene-edited embryos into women, possibly before the end of the year if he can get approval by then. Chinese scientist He Jiankui prompted an international outcry when he announced last November that he had made the world’s first gene-edited babies — twin girls.

    The experiment will target the same gene, called CCR5, that He did, but Rebrikov claims his technique will offer greater benefits, pose fewer risks and be more ethically justifiable and acceptable to the public. Rebrikov plans to disable the gene, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter cells, in embryos that will be implanted into HIV-positive mothers, reducing the risk of them passing on the virus to the baby in utero. By contrast, He modified the gene in embryos created from fathers with HIV, which many geneticists said provided little clinical benefit because the risk of a father passing on HIV to his children is minimal.

    Rebrikov heads a genome-editing laboratory at Russia’s largest fertility clinic, the Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology in Moscow and is a researcher at the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University, also in Moscow.

    According to Rebrikov he already has an agreement with an HIV centre in the city to recruit women infected with HIV who want to take part in the experiment.

    But scientists and bioethicists contacted by Nature are troubled by Rebrikov’s plans.

    “The technology is not ready,” says Jennifer Doudna, a University of California Berkeley molecular biologist who pioneered the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing system that Rebrikov plans to use. “It is not surprising, but it is very disappointing and unsettling.”

    Alta Charo, a researcher in bioethics and law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says Rebrikov’s plans are not an ethical use of the technology. “It is irresponsible to proceed with this protocol at this time,” adds Charo, who sits on a World Health Organization committee that is formulating ethical governance policies for human genome editing.
    Rules and regulations

    Implanting gene-edited embryos is banned in many countries. Russia has a law that prohibits genetic engineering in most circumstances, but it is unclear whether or how the rules would be enforced in relation to gene editing in an embryo. And Russia’s regulations on assisted reproduction do not explicitly refer to gene editing, according to a 2017 analysis of such regulations in a range of countries. (The law in China is also ambiguous: in 2003, the health ministry banned genetically modifying human embryos for reproduction but the ban carried no penalties and He’s legal status was and still is not clear).

    Rebrikov expects the health ministry to clarify the rules on the clinical use of gene-editing of embryos in the next nine months. Rebrikov says he feels a sense of urgency to help women with HIV, and is tempted to proceed with his experiments even before Russia hashes out regulations.

    To reduce the chance he would be punished for the experiments, Rebrikov plans to first seek approval from three government agencies, including the health ministry. That could take anywhere from one month to two years, he says.

    Konstantin Severinov, a molecular geneticist who recently helped the government design a funding program for gene-editing research, says such approvals might be difficult. Russia’s powerful Orthodox church opposes gene editing, says Severinov, who splits his time between Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology near Moscow.

    Before any scientist attempts to implant gene-edited embryos into women there needs to be a transparent, open debate about the scientific feasibility and ethical permissibility, says geneticist George Daley at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who also heard about Rebrikov’s plans from Nature.

    One reason that gene-edited embryos have created a huge global debate is that, if allowed to grow into babies, the edits can be passed on to future generations — a far-reaching intervention known as altering the germ line. Researchers agree that the technology might, one day, help to eliminate genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis, but much more testing is needed before it is used in the alteration of human beings.

    In the wake of He’s announcement, many scientists renewed calls for an international moratorium on germline editing. Although that has yet to happen, the World Health Organization, the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK’s Royal Society and other prominent organizations have all discussed how to stop unethical and dangerous uses — often defined as ones that pose unnecessary or excessive risk — of genome editing in humans.
    HIV-positive mothers

    Although He was widely criticized for conducting his experiments using sperm from HIV-positive fathers, his argument was that he just wanted to protect people against ever getting the infection. But scientists and ethicists countered that there are other ways to decrease the risk of infection, such as contraceptives. There are also reasonable alternatives, such as drugs, for preventing maternal transmission of HIV, says Charo.

    Rebrikov agrees, and so plans to implant embryos only into a subset of HIV-positive mothers who do not respond to standard anti-HIV drugs. Their risk of transmitting the infection to the child is higher. If editing successfully disables the CCR5 gene, that risk would be greatly reduced, Rebrikov says. “This is a clinical situation which calls for this type of therapy,” he says.

    Most scientists say there is no justification for editing the CCR5 gene in embryos, even so, because the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. Even if the therapy goes as planned, and both copies of the CCR5 gene in cells are disabled, there is still a chance that such babies could become infected with HIV. The cell-surface protein encoded by CCR5 is thought to be the gateway for some 90% of HIV infections, but getting rid of it won’t affect other routes of HIV infection. There are still many unknowns about the safety of gene editing in embryos, says Gaetan Burgio at the Australian National University in Canberra. And what are the benefits of editing this gene, he asks. “I don’t see them.”
    Hitting the target

    There are also concerns about the safety of gene editing in embryos more generally. Rebrikov claims that his experiment — which, like He’s, will use the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tool — will be safe.

    One big concern with He’s experiment — and with gene-editing in embryos more generally — is that CRISPR-Cas9 can cause unintended ‘off-target’ mutations away from the target gene, and that these could be dangerous if they, for instance, switched off a tumour-suppressor gene. But Rebrikov says that he is developing a technique that can ensure that there are no ‘off-target’ mutations; he plans to post preliminary findings online within a month, possibly on bioRxiv or in a peer-reviewed journal.

    Scientists contacted by Nature were sceptical that such assurances could be made about off-target mutations, or about another known challenge of using CRISPR-Cas 9 — so-called ‘on-target mutations’, in which the correct gene is edited, but not in the way intended.

    Rebrikov writes, in a paper published last year in the Bulletin of the RSMU, of which he is the editor in chief, that his technique disables both copies of the CCR5 gene (by deleting a section of 32 bases) more than 50% of the time. He says publishing in this journal was not a conflict of interest because reviewers and editors are blinded to a paper’s authors.

    But Doudna is sceptical of those results. “The data I have seen say it’s not that easy to control the way the DNA repair works.” Burgio, too, thinks that the edits probably led to other deletions or insertions that are difficult to detect, as is often the case with gene editing.

    Misplaced edits could mean that the gene isn’t properly disabled, and so the cell is still accessible to HIV, or that the mutated gene could function in a completely different and unpredictable way. “It can be a real mess,” says Burgio.

    What’s more, the unmutated CCR5 has many functions that are not yet well understood, but which offer some benefits, say scientists critical of Rebrikov’s plans. For instance, it seems to offer some protection against major complications following infection by the West Nile virus or influenza. “We know a lot about its [CCR5’s] role in HIV entry [to cells], but we don’t know much about its other effects,” says Burgio. A study published last week also suggested that people without a working copy of CCR5 might have a shortened lifespan.

    Rebrikov understands that if he proceeds with his experiment before Russia’s updated regulations are in place, he might be considered a second He Jiankui. But he says he would only do so if he’s sure of the safety of the procedure. “I think I’m crazy enough to do it,” he says.

    Nature 570, 145-146 (2019)
    doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01770-x

  • A scientist tries to read a book, and is confused by the lack of subheadings
    https://massivesci.com/notes/science-reading-science-fun-writing-scicomm-novel

    I was reading a novel with a notebook and pen waiting for me on the table. I was sitting hunched over, squinting my eyes, holding the book with my two hands while I went over the first, last, and maybe some sentences in the middle of each paragraph and...

  • Giant viruses have weaponised CRISPR against their bacterial hosts | New Scientist
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2197422-giant-viruses-have-weaponised-crispr-against-their-bacterial-h

    Surprisingly, many of the giant phages also have CRISPR systems. CRISPR proteins have become famous for their use in genome editing, but they were first evolved by bacteria as a kind of immune system that targeted and destroyed the DNA of invading phages.

  • #learning Data Science : Our Favorite #python Resources
    https://hackernoon.com/learning-data-science-our-favorite-python-resources-from-free-to-not-877

    Python is a common language that is used by both data engineers and data scientists. This is because it can automate the operational work that data engineers need to do and has the algorithms, analytics, and data visualization libraries required by data scientist.In both rolls, the need to manage, automate and analyze data is made easier by only a few lines of code. So much so that one of the books we have read and seen in many data focused practitioners libraries in the book Automate The Boring Stuff With Python.The book covers python basics and some simple automation tips. This is especially good for business analysts who work heavily in Excel.There are also books by O’Reilly that are also a great overview of the basics.You can start your list of books with the Python Cookbook. This (...)

    #programming #machine-learning #data-science

  • Radical plan to artificially cool Earth’s climate could be safe, study finds | Environment | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/11/solar-geoengineering-climate-change-new-study

    Another scientist [Robock], however, said he [le co-auteur de l’article] was overstating the new study’s findings.

    [...]

    Robock said one of his studies contains a list of 27 reasons why Earth-cooling aerosols might be a bad idea. And he added that the technology could cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year [...]

    #climat #géoingéniérie

  • Learning Data Science In 6 Weeks — How You Can Do It?
    https://hackernoon.com/learning-data-science-in-6-weeks-how-you-can-do-it-d46520c12d43?source=r

    Learning Data Science In 6 Weeks — How You Can Do It?With data science emerging as one of the hottest professions in the recent years, there’s an extremely high demand for data practitioners.However, many aspirants are bogged down by the myth that you need a Ph.D. or a Master’s in the field to become a data scientist.Those with very little statistics or programming skills too are often afraid of taking up courses in data science fearing they won’t find any use of what they learn.But in reality, if you have a passion for learning, can grapple with new challenges and persevere, you can learn data science in just 6 weeks data camp.And we don’t mean learning some basic things that won’t help you in getting a job.In 6 weeks, the right course can get you job-ready by teaching you the requisite skills (...)

    #ai #entrepreneur #data-science #machine-learning #magnimind-academy

  • But it is worse than that, par Marc Doll
    https://www.facebook.com/SoilLifeQuadra/posts/10156656875720199

    I realize there is something I have known for some time but have never said, and, since I have just spent another 4 hours of my life in climate change academia I have to get this out of my system.

    Please understand that many you reading this won’t live to an old age... and likely will start scrolling after one or 2 more paragraphs... (edit...Ok I was wrong on this point. This is now my 2nd most shared post of all time..(edit)...make that my most shared)

    The IPCC report and Paris accord are incredibly overly optimistic and that commits the world to a target that means the death of hundreds of millions if not more.

    But it is worse than that.

    Even the commitments made by countries in the Paris accord don’t get us to a 2 degree world.

    But it is worse than that.

    The 2 degree target is now unattainable (unless of course the entirety of civilization does a 180 today...) and is based on geo-engineering the climate of the earth as well as the sequestering of every molecule of carbon we have produced since 1987, as well as every molecule we are producing today,as well as every molecule we produce tomorrow.... with magical technologies that don’t exist, wont exist and, even if they did would likely cause as many if not more problems than they fix.

    But it is worse than that.

    The 2 degree target of the IPCC does not factor in the feedback loops such as the increase absorption of heat due to a drastic reduction in the albedo (reflectivity) effect caused by the 70% loss of arctic ice,..- the release of methane from a thawing arctic. (there is more energy stored in the arctic methane than there is in coal in the world). This is called the methane dragon. If the process of the release of the methane, currently frozen in the soil and ocean beds of the arctic, which may have already begun, but if it spins out of control we are looking a an 8 degree rise in temperature.

    But it is worse than that.

    The report which gives us 12 years to get our head’s out of our arses underestimated the amount of heat stored in the world’s oceans, as we descovered in mid-January by 40%... so no , we don’t have 12 more years.

    But it is worse than that.

    The IPCC report ignores the effects of humans messing up the Nitrogen cycle through agricultural fertilizers and more... Don’t go down this rabbit hole if you want to sleep at night.

    But it is worse than that.

    Sea level rise will not be gradual. Even assuming that the billions of tons of water that is currently being dumped down to the ground level of Greenland isn’t creating a lubricant which eventually will allow the ice to free-flow into the northern oceans; it is only the friction to the islands surface that is currently holding the ice back. Then consider the same process is happening in Antarctica but is also coupled with the disappearance of the ice shelves which act as buttresses holding the glaciers from free flowing into the southern ocean. then factor in thermal expansions; the simple fact that warmer water takes up more space and It becomes clear that we are not looking at maintaining the current 3.4mm/yr increase in sea level rise (which incidentally is terrifying when you multiply it out over decades and centuries.) We will be looking at major calving events that will result in much bigger yearly increases coupled with an exponential increase in glacial melting. We know that every increase of 100ppm of C02 increases sea level by about 100 feet. We have already baked in 130 feet of sea level rise. It is just a question of how long it is going to take to get there... and then keep on rising..

    But it is worse than that.

    Insects are disappearing at 6 times the speed of larger animals and at a rate of about 2.5% of their biomass every year. These are our pollinators. These are links in our food chain. These represent the basic functioning of every terrestrial ecosystem.

    But it is worse than that.

    58% of the biomass of vertebrae life on earth has been lost since 1970. That is basically in my lifetime!

    But it is worse than that.

    The amount of Carbon we add to the atmosphere is equal to a yearly a human caused forest fire 20% bigger than the continent of Africa. Yes, that is every single year!

    But it is worse than that.

    Drought in nearly every food producing place in the world is expected to intensify by mid-century and make them basically unusable by the end of the century... Then factor in the end of Phosphorus (China and Russia have already stopped exporting it knowing this) and the depletion of aquifers and you come to the conclusion that feeding the planet becomes impossible.

    But it is worse than that.

    We can no longer save the society that we live in and many of us are going to be dead long before our life expectancy would suggest.

    If your idea of hope is having some slightly modified Standard of living going forward and live to ripe old age... there is no hope. This civilization is over...

    ..but there is hope..

    There is a way for some to come through this and have an enjoyable life on the other side. Every day we delay can be measured in human lives. There will come a day of inaction when that number includes someone you love, yourself or myself.

    So we have 2 options.

    Wake the fuck up. If we do we will only have to experience the end of our society as we know it aka...the inevitable economic collapse which is now unavoidable, but be able to save and rebuild something new on the other side. This would require a deep adaptation. Words like sustainability would need to be seen as toxic and our focus needs be on regeneration. Regeneration of soil, forests, grasslands, oceans etc.... This is all possible.

    Option 2 is the path we are on thinking that we can slowly adapt to change. This not only ensures we experience collapse but also condemns humanity to not just economic and social collapse but in a 4-6 or even an 8 degree world... extinction.

    I am sick of pipeline discussions. I am sick of any argument that is predicated on the defeatist assumption that we will continue to burn oil at an ever increasing rate simply because it is what we have always done. Fact is if we do we are not just fucked, we are dead. I am sick of people who don’t understand how their food is produced, and its effect on the climate.(both carnivores who eat feed-lot meat and vegans who eat industrially-produced-mono-cropped-veggies as they are equally guilty here. The consumption of either is devastating). I am sick of the tons of shiny new clothes people are wearing without realizing 1 Kg of cotton takes over 10 thousand Liters of water and incredible amounts of energy to produce. I am sickened by the amount of that same clothing hits the landfill in near new condition. I am sick of the argument that our oil is less poisonous than someone else’s. Firstly, no it isn’t and secondly, It doesn’t fucking matter. I am sick of people that can’t even handle the ridiculously-small, only-the-tip-of- the-iceberg-of-changes we need to accept; a carbon tax. I am sick of the fact that the political will seems only capable of focusing on the individual consumer through small measures like a carbon tax but no elected Party seems to have the fortitude to enact policies that take it to the small handful of companies that are responsible for 70% of our current C02 production. I am sick of my own hypocrisy that allows me to still use fossil fuels for transportation. I am sick of those who use hypocrisy as an argument against action. I am sick of the Leadership of my country that argues we can have economic growth and survivable environment... we can’t. I am sickened by the normalizing of the leadership of our Southern neighbour who as the most polluting nation in the world officially ignores even the tragedy that is the Paris accord. I am sick of the politicians I worked to get elected being impotent on this subject. Naheed and Greg I’m looking at you. (BTW...Druh, you are an exception) I am sick that the next image I put up of my kids, cheese, pets or bread is going to gain immeasurably more attention than a post such as this which actually has meaning... I am sick about the fact that all the information I referenced here is easily discoverable in scientific journals through a simple google search but will be characterized by many as hyperbolic.

    I am confused as to who I am more upset with. Those who have fallen for the denier propaganda, those who choose to be willfully ignorant, those who understand this issue and throw their hands up in a fit of lazy despair or those who are as cognitive as I am to the urgency of this issue yet continue living day-to-day feeling self-satisfied with their recycling, electric car, voting record or some other equally inane lifestyle modification while waiting for society to hit the tipping point so they don’t have to actually put their values into practice (which despite my recent life changes still more or less includes me). All that said...

    There is a path forward.

    But every day we delay the path forward includes fewer of us. Build community, build resilience, work for food security, think regeneration, plant food producing trees, think perennial food production, turn your waste products into resources, eat food that does not mine the soil and is locally produced, eat meat that is grass fed in a holistic or intensively rotated (ideally holistically grazed in a silvopasture ) that is used to provide nutrients to vegetation, get to know a farmer or become one yourself, park your car, do not vote for anyone who either ignores climate change or says we can have our cake and eat it too, quit your job if it is fossil fuel related (it is better than losing it... which you will), stop buying shit, stop buying expensive cars and overly large houses and then complain that local planet saving food costs more than Costco. Stop buying things that are designed to break and be disposed-of, let go of this society slowly and by your own volition (its better than being forced to do it quickly), Rip up your lawn and plant a garden with perennial veggies, fruit bushes, fruit trees and nut trees. Learn to compost your own poop (it is easy and doesn’t stink). Buy an apple with a blemish, Get a smaller house on a bigger lot and regenerate that land, Plant a guerrilla garden on a city road allowance. Return to the multi-generational house, Realize that growth has only been a thing in human civilization for 250 years and it is about to end and make preparations for this change. Teach this to your children. Buy only the necessities, don’t buy new clothes-go to the thrift store. Don’t use single use plastic or if you do re-purpose it, Unplug your garberator and compost everything, Relearn old forgotten skills. Don’t let yourself get away with the argument that the plane is going there anyway when you book a holiday. Understand that there is no such thing as the new normal because next year will be worse, Understand before you make the argument that we need to reduce human population ... meaning the population elsewhere... that it is not overpopulation in China or India that is causing the current problem... It is us and our “western” lifestyle, Understand that those that are currently arguing against refugees and climate change are both increasing the effects of climate change and causing millions of climate refugees... which will be arriving on Canada’s doorstep because Canada, due to our size and Northern Latitude, will on the whole have some of the best climate refuges. Understand that the densification of cities is condemning those in that density to a food-less future. Stop tolerating the middle ground on climate change. there is no middle ground on gravity, the earth is round, and we are on the verge of collapse.

    –----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    At last check over 25000 shares. Thank you for reading.

    Thanks to Dr. Eric Rignot, Rupert Read , Dr. Jim Anderson, everyone at Berkely Earth those that put keep C02.earth and Environmental Advanced Sciences on FB upto date and so many other climate scientists who’s work have inspired this piece. Thanks as well to the 16 yr old Gretta Thunburg who gave me the courage to take what was in my head and put it to paper,. I encourage you to dig deep. Listen to talks where scientist are talking to scientists. They are less likely then to use the conservative filters they impose on themselves and you will get to the cutting edge.

    *on a personal note, since I post about my children, I don’t accept friend requests from people I haven’t met. That said as of today, I have figured out how to enable the “follow” button on my account. I have been blown away by all the fantastic and heartfelt messages and commitments to change I have received due to this post and look forward to reading them.

  • Why science needs more women – and more scientists who cry

    Dr #Emily_Grossman met a series of hurdles in her quest to be a scientist, from male-dominated classrooms to brutal social media trolling. Now she is using the challenges she faced to urge more young women into STEM – and to encourage scientists to cry in the lab.

    https://lacuna.org.uk/equality/why-science-needs-more-women-and-more-scientists-who-cry

    #larmes #pleurs #pleurer #université #science #chercheurs

  • They helped expose unsafe lead levels in Flint’s and in D.C.’s water. Then they turned on each other. - The Washington Post
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2019/01/16/feature/they-helped-expose-unsafe-lead-levels-in-flints-and-in-d-c-s-water-then-they-turned-on-each-other/?noredirect=on

    Marc Edwards helped expose dangerous amounts of lead in the water in Flint and D.C. Now, some of the activists he worked with have turned against him.

    he issue of whether scientists should engage in activism has become more urgent in the Trump era. For decades, scientists have argued their work should be a nonpartisan affair. It’s a norm so deeply rooted that even scientists who participated in the 2017 March for Science on Earth Day espoused that ideal, saying they were there only in response to the administration’s attacks on science.

    Edwards argues scientists may have to assume an activist role when they witness communities facing powerful institutions, such as the state of Michigan. “I would prefer to be able to sit in the office, advise my students and do my research, and that would be enough, but it’s not,” Edwards told me in one of several lengthy phone conversations. Still, as a scientist, he’s not always comfortable having his work cast as activism. He prefers, he says, to call what he does “investigative science,” a blend of “science, investigative reporting and direct collaboration with members of affected communities.”

    A few months after that court appearance, the letter criticizing Edwards appeared. He later filed a defamation lawsuit against three of the activists who signed it: Lambrinidou, Schwartz and Melissa Mays, a mother of three in Flint. In his complaint, Edwards claimed that the trio organized a public smear campaign against him, questioning his scientific integrity and motives for working in Flint in social media posts and media interviews. He sought $3 million in damages, saying he has lost some of his grants, potentially preventing him from uncovering contaminated water in other places. Edwards chalks up the activists’ criticisms to professional jealousy and, in Lambrinidou’s case, romantic feelings that were not reciprocated.

    “The Defendants harbor various financial, professional and social incentives to make negative and damaging statements regarding Edwards and his work,” the lawsuit reads.

    In Flint, Edwards used public records requests to unearth emails showing that officials in Michigan knew the city’s water was contaminated long before they publicly admitted it. Lately, he has used that same strategy to get copies of emails he hopes will explain what caused the activists in Flint and in D.C. to turn on him. And he continues to use his blog to defend his reputation and update readers on his public spats with activists and other scientists.

    I asked Edwards if he thought, looking back, that he had been a bit naive not to have anticipated the reaction to his findings that lead levels in Flint’s water had fallen to safe levels. He says he had expected a backlash but not what he views as a concerted effort to destroy his professional reputation. He stands by his actions, which he perceives as truth telling. “It comes down to duty versus self-preservation,” he says. “In a post-truth world, science has become just another weapon of tribal warfare, and rising above that takes courage.”

    #Flint #Lanceurs_alerte #Crises_internes #Activisme

  • James Watson Won’t Stop Talking About Race - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/01/science/watson-dna-genetics-race.html

    It has been more than a decade since James D. Watson, a founder of modern genetics, landed in a kind of professional exile by suggesting that black people are intrinsically less intelligent than whites.

    In 2007, Dr. Watson, who shared a 1962 Nobel Prize for describing the double-helix structure of DNA, told a British journalist that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says, not really.”

    Moreover, he added, although he wished everyone were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”

    Some scientists said that Dr. Watson’s recent remarks are noteworthy less because they are his than because they signify misconceptions that may be on the rise, even among scientists, as ingrained racial biases collide with powerful advances in genetics that are enabling researchers to better explore the genetic underpinnings of behavior and cognition.

    “It’s not an old story of an old guy with old views,’’ said Andrea Morris, the director of career development at Rockefeller University, who served as a scientific consultant for the film. Dr. Morris said that, as an African-American scientist, “I would like to think that he has the minority view on who can do science and what a scientist should look like. But to me, it feels very current.’’

    David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard, has argued that new techniques for studying DNA show that some human populations were geographically separated for long enough that they plausibly could have evolved average genetic differences in cognition and behavior.

    But in his recent book, “Who We Are and How We Got Here,’’ he explicitly repudiates Dr. Watson’s presumption that such differences would “correspond to longstanding popular stereotypes’’ as “essentially guaranteed to be wrong.’’

    Even Robert Plomin, a prominent behavioral geneticist who argues that nature decisively trumps nurture when it comes to individuals, rejects speculation about average racial differences.

    “There are powerful methods for studying the genetic and environmental origins of individual differences, but not for studying the causes of average differences between groups,” Dr. Plomin writes in an afterword to be published this spring in the paperback edition of his book, “Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are.”

    #Racisme #Génomique #Watson

  • THE #C.I.A. AND #LUMUMBA - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/1981/08/02/magazine/the-cia-and-lumumba.html

    Article de 1981

    Madeleine G. Kalb is author of the forthcoming book ’’The Congo Cables: From Eisenhower to Kennedy,’’ from which this article is adapted. By Madeleine G. Kalb On Sept. 19, 1960, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in Leopoldville, capital of the newly independent Congo, received a message through a top-secret channel from his superiors in Washington. Someone from headquarters calling himself ’’Joe from Paris’’ would be arriving with instructions for an urgent mission. No further details were provided. The station chief was cautioned not to discuss the message with anyone.

    ’’Joe’’ arrived a week later. He proved to be the C.I.A.’s top scientist, and he came equipped with a kit containing an exotic poison designed to produce a fatal disease indigenous to the area. This lethal substance, he informed the station chief, was meant for Patrice Lumumba, the recently ousted pro-Soviet Prime Minister of the #Congo, who had a good chance of returning to power.

    The poison, the scientist said, was somehow to be slipped into Lumumba’s food, or perhaps into his toothpaste. Poison was not the only acceptable method; any form of assassination would do, so long as it could not be traced back to the United States Government. Pointing out that assassination was not exactly a common C.I.A. tactic, the station chief asked who had authorized the assignment. The scientist indicated that the order had come from the ’’highest authority’’ - from Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States.

    #Etats-Unis

  • There’ll be a domino effect as we trigger ecosystem tipping points | New Scientist
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/2188965-therell-be-a-domino-effect-as-we-trigger-ecosystem-tipping-poi

    Peterson’s team has analysed 300 ecosystems with potential tipping points or regime changes. For instance, as rainfall increases grasslands can suddenly turn into forests, and vice versa.

    The study suggests that almost half of them are linked. For example, more extreme rainfall from global heating can greatly increase soil erosion, especially on degraded farmland, and carry more phosphorus into rivers, lakes and the sea. This can trigger algal blooms and red tides, and amplify the decline in oxygen that occurs as waters warm. This leads to even bigger aquatic “dead zones” with low oxygen, which can have further knock-on effects.

    What the team’s work shows is that crossing one tipping point increases the risk of crossing another and so triggering a whole cascade of effects. And we may not even recognise the danger until it is too late, Peterson says.

    #ecosystemes #climat #effet_domino

  • The EU plans to test an AI lie detector at border points - The Verge
    https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/31/18049906/eu-artificial-intelligence-ai-lie-detector-border-points-immigration

    iBorderCtrl is an EU-funded project that uses AI in order to facilitate faster border crossings for travelers. The system has users fill out an online application and upload some documents, like their passport, before a virtual border guard takes over to ask questions. According to New Scientist, some of these questions include “What’s in your suitcase?” and “If you open the suitcase and show me what is inside, will it confirm that your answers were true?” Travelers will answer while facing a webcam and the system will analyze and rate dozens of micro-gestures.

    If iBorderCtrl determines the traveler is telling the truth, then they receive a QR code that will let them pass the border. If there is suspicion the traveler is lying, they’ll have biometric information taken — including fingerprinting, palm vein reading, and face matching — before being passed to a human agent who will review their information and make an assessment.

    The program is still considered highly experimental, and in its current state, will not prevent anyone from crossing over a border. Early testing of a previous iteration only had a 76 percent success rate, but a member of the iBorderCtrl team told New Scientist that they are “quite confident” that can be raised to 85 percent.

    #AI #Europe #UE #fascisme_informatique

  • Request a Scientist — 500 Women Scientists
    https://500womenscientists.org/request-a-scientist

    We need more women’s voices — in the media, at scientific conferences, at universities, in government. We, 500 Women Scientists, are creating a solution to this gender gap, from manels to largely male keynote speakers at scientific conferences to the prominence of males as policy makers.

    The Request a Woman Scientist platform connects our extensive multidisciplinary network of vetted women in science with anyone who needs to consult a scientist for a news story, invite a keynote speaker or panelist for a conference or workshop, find a woman scientist to collaborate on a project, or serve as a subject matter expert in any capacity. Importantly, 500 Women Scientists is committed to diversity and inclusion, not just in our scientific fields, but in our society as a whole.

    We are what a scientist looks like.

    #sciences #femmes #invisibilité_des_femmes

  • Former Google Scientist Tells Senate to Act Over Company’s “Unethical and Unaccountable” China Censorship Plan
    https://theintercept.com/2018/09/26/former-google-scientist-tells-senate-to-act-over-companys-unethical-an

    A scientist who quit Google over its plan to build a censored search engine in China has told U.S. senators that some company employees may have “actively subverted” an internal privacy review of the system. Jack Poulson resigned from Google in August after The Intercept reported that a group of the internet giant’s staffers was secretly working on a search engine for China that would remove content about subjects such as human rights, democracy, peaceful protest, and religion. “I view our (...)

    #Google #algorithme #Dragonfly #censure #filtrage #web #surveillance

  • Origins of an Epidemic: Purdue Pharma Knew Its Opioids Were Widely Abused - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/29/health/purdue-opioids-oxycontin.html

    Prosecutors found that the company’s sales representatives used the words “street value,” “crush,” or “snort” in 117 internal notes recording their visits to doctors or other medical professionals from 1997 through 1999.

    The 120-page report also cited emails showing that Purdue Pharma’s owners, members of the wealthy Sackler family, were sent reports about abuse of OxyContin and another company opioid, MS Contin.
    Image
    “We have in fact picked up references to abuse of our opioid products on the internet,” Purdue Pharma’s general counsel, Howard R. Udell, wrote in early 1999 to another company official. That same year, prosecutors said, company officials learned of a call to a pharmacy describing “OxyContin as the hottest thing on the street — forget Vicodin.”

    A spokesman for Purdue Pharma, Robert Josephson, declined to comment on the allegations in the report but said the company was involved in efforts to address opioid abuse.

    Suggesting that activities that last occurred more than 16 years ago are responsible for today’s complex and multifaceted opioid crisis is deeply flawed ,” he said in a statement.

    La famille sacquer savait, dès le début...

    In May 1996, five months after OxyContin’s approval, Richard Sackler and Mr. Udell were sent an older medical journal article describing how drug abusers were extracting morphine from MS Contin tablets in order to inject the drug , prosecutors reported. A Purdue Pharma scientist researched the issue and sent his findings to several Sacklers, the government report states.
    “I found MS Contin mentioned a couple of times on the internet underground drug culture scene,” the researcher wrote in that 1996 email. “Most of it was mentioned in the context of MS Contin as a morphine source.”

    #Opioides #Sackler

  • In Uganda’s Refugee Camps, South Sudanese Children Seek the Families They’ve Lost

    On a pale dirt road in the Palorinya refugee camp in northern Uganda, Raida Ijo clung to her 16-year-old son, Charles Abu. They sobbed quietly into each other’s shoulder. They had been separated for 19 months, since the day that fighting broke out between rebels and government troops in their village in South Sudan.

    Charles was halfway through a math class in their village, Andasire, in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state, when the shooting started. He ran for the bush, and after a sleepless night in hiding, set off for the Ugandan border with his younger brother, Seme, 14.

    Their mother, Mrs. Ijo, feeling unwell, had checked herself into a hospital that morning. The boys knew that to try to find her would be too dangerous.

    The two brothers are among 17,600 minors who have crossed the border into Uganda without their parents since the outbreak of South Sudan’s civil war in 2013, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Over the last year, the pace of the conflict and the flow of refugees have slowed, but aid workers say it will take years to reunite splintered families.

    “When it’s already tough just to survive, and you don’t even know if your loved ones are alive, that adds a lot to the burden,” said Joane Holliger, a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross to a program in Uganda, Restoring Family Links. “There are a lot of protection concerns for unaccompanied children — child labor, teenage pregnancy, prostitution, child-headed families — so the quicker we can trace their parents, the better.”

    Over the last two years, 433 unaccompanied minors have been reunited with their parents in Uganda. Worldwide, the International Committee of the Red Cross has opened 99,342 cases as it tries to reunite families.

    In Uganda, the bulk of the work is done by Red Cross volunteers, called tracers, who work weekdays hoping to find missing family members in their allocated section of the camp.

    Agustin Soroba, 27, who was himself separated from his family for five months after being kidnapped, beaten and pressed into labor as an ammunition porter by South Sudanese soldiers, has been working as a tracer since February 2017.

    His area of operation is a series of blocks in Bidi Bidi camp — now Africa’s largest with around 280,000 refugees. On a recent Wednesday, he was doing the rounds of unaccompanied children in his area whose cases were still in progress, and checking on families who had been reunified.

    One visit was to a small mud-built home where Margaret Sitima, 18, has been waiting for over a year to reconnect with her mother, last seen on her way to the hospital in the Ugandan town of Arua, after being badly beaten by soldiers on her journey out of South Sudan.

    Mr. Soroba pressed her for any more details she might have, and told her he would try his best.

    His colleagues urge people to report missing family members. They also hang posters of the missing and run a hotline that allows refugees to phone separated family members.

    One old man called his wife — the first time they had spoken in 14 months — to let her know that he was in Bidi Bidi and that he missed her. A woman in a yellow T-shirt called relatives in South Sudan with the news that her son had been sick but was recovering.

    Many of the unaccompanied children have witnessed extreme violence, adding urgency to the challenge of reunifying them with their families.

    “Many of them are extremely disturbed,” said Richard Talish, 33, an employee of the World Vision charity, who runs a safe space for children in Bidi Bidi camp. “We try to keep them busy, so they’re not always thinking about the past.”

    Mr. Talish said that in art sessions, many children draw scenes of violence.

    Tracing can take time. The Abu brothers’ case illustrates the obstacles to reuniting families split by South Sudan’s war. The boys had no idea of their mother’s whereabouts and whether she was alive. They said their mother did not know her age and could not spell her name, making it harder to locate her. Like many rural South Sudanese, she has never owned a mobile phone or a Facebook account.
    Image

    When one of South Sudan’s three cellphone networks was taken offline in March over unpaid license fees, thousands lost their only means of contact.

    The tracing challenges are exacerbated by the lack of access to a centralized database of refugees in Uganda. A combination of confusion and corruption during refugee registrations, in the early months of the crisis, produced incomplete or erroneous records. Some refugees were registered more than once; others, not at all. Names were misspelled. Some records do not list a specific location within the camps, which sprawl for nearly 100 square miles of northern Uganda scrubland.

    Uganda is carrying out biometric registrations to clarify the number of refugees, following a scandal over inflated figures. Several government officials were suspended.

    Until their parents have been located, unaccompanied children live with foster families in the camps. Some are connected by charitable organizations, such as World Vision, which runs a database of potential foster caregivers, who must be matched by ethnicity and language with the child. Other children live with families they encountered on the road, or at reception areas near the border. Extended families and clans try to fill the gap.

    Florence Knight, 14, was one of six unaccompanied children taken in by a passing refugee family who found them hiding by the roadside near the burning remains of the truck that had taken them toward the border. The vehicle had been ambushed and most of its occupants killed.

    “They’re like my own children now,” said Ms. Knight’s new foster mother, Betty Leila, 32, who now has 13 children, stepchildren or foster children. Many cry at night because of bad dreams.

    A few blocks away, another teenage girl, Betty Abau, is living with a family who found her crying and alone beside a river on their journey to the Ugandan border. She looked down at the floor, wringing her hands as she talked. She had been at school when violence erupted and forced her to flee without her parents.

    “I don’t know if they are alive or dead,” said Ms. Abau.

    She said she had provided all the details she could recall to a tracing officer over a year ago, but had not received any updates. According to Lilias Diria, 32, Betty’s new foster mother, she is one of six unaccompanied children living just in this cluster of half a dozen homes.

    The breakthrough in the Abu brothers’ case finally came after a tip from a man who had recognized one of their relatives in the Palorinya camp, a scattered settlement of 180,000 refugees. Red Cross representatives asked the prime minister’s office — which oversees the refugee program in partnership with the United Nations refugee agency — to run a check for their mother. The search revealed nine people with similar names. A Red Cross tracer then set out to locate each woman, one by one, and found the correct Raida Ijo on the fifth attempt.
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    On June 29, more than a year and a half after they last saw their mother, the boys packed their few possessions — clothes, cooking pots, jerrycans, a single rolled-up mattress, three live rabbits — into a Red Cross vehicle and set off on the two-hour drive from their foster home in Rhino camp, to their mother’s ramshackle shelter of sticks, mud and thatch in Palorinya.

    “For a mother not to know where her children are is so hard,” said an overjoyed Mrs. Ijo, who had spent days sitting in an open sided tarpaulin shelter worrying about her missing sons since fleeing to Uganda during a second round of violence in February 2017. “They came from my body. I brought them up. I love them. I didn’t know if I would ever see them again.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/09/world/africa/south-sudan-refugee-children-uganda.html

  • ’Sexist’ Tui Airways crew gave different badges to girls and boys | World news | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/22/sexist-tui-airways-crew-gave-different-badges-to-girls-and-boys

    Tui Airways is at the centre of a sexism row after flight attendants were accused of handing out stickers to children that encouraged girls to be cabin crew and boys to be pilots.

    A passenger on board a flight from Cyprus to Bristol said stickers were handed to boys that read “future pilot” while girls were given ones that read “future cabin crew”.

    Dame Gillian Morgan, 56, a doctor and scientist who saw the stickers being handed out on a flight from Bristol to Cyprus, said the act was “deeply sexist”.

    #sexisme

    • Second time, farceRulers of the world: read Karl Marx!

      On his bicentenary Marx’s diagnosis of capitalism’s flaws is surprisingly relevant

      May 3rd 2018

      A GOOD subtitle for a biography of Karl Marx would be “a study in failure”. Marx claimed that the point of philosophy was not just to understand the world but to improve it. Yet his philosophy changed it largely for the worst: the 40% of humanity who lived under Marxist regimes for much of the 20th century endured famines, gulags and party dictatorships. Marx thought his new dialectical science would allow him to predict the future as well as understand the present. Yet he failed to anticipate two of the biggest developments of the 20th century—the rise of fascism and the welfare state—and wrongly believed communism would take root in the most advanced economies. Today’s only successful self-styled Marxist regime is an enthusiastic practitioner of capitalism (or “socialism with Chinese characteristics”).

      Yet for all his oversights, Marx remains a monumental figure. At the 200th anniversary of his birth, which falls on May 5th, interest in him is as lively as ever. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, is visiting Trier, Marx’s birthplace, where a statue of Marx donated by the Chinese government will be unveiled. The British Library, where he did the research for “Das Kapital”, is putting on a series of exhibitions and talks. And publishers are producing a cascade of books on his life and thought, from “Das Kapital”-sized doorstops (Sven-Eric Liedman’s “A World to Win: The Life and Works of Karl Marx”), to Communist Manifesto-slim pamphlets (a second edition of Peter Singer’s “Marx: A Very Short Introduction”).
      None of these bicentennial books is outstanding. The best short introduction is still Isaiah Berlin’s “Karl Marx”, which was published in 1939. But the sheer volume of commentary is evidence of something important. Why does the world remain fixated on the ideas of a man who helped to produce so much suffering?

      The point of madness

      The obvious reason is the sheer power of those ideas. Marx may not have been the scientist that he thought he was. But he was a brilliant thinker: he developed a theory of society driven forward by economic forces—not just by the means of production but by the relationship between owners and workers—and destined to pass through certain developmental stages. He was also a brilliant writer. Who can forget his observation that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”? His ideas were as much religious as scientific—you might even call them religion repackaged for a secular age. He was a latter-day prophet describing the march of God on Earth. The fall from grace is embodied in capitalism; man is redeemed as the proletariat rises up against its exploiters and creates a communist utopia.

      A second reason is the power of his personality. Marx was in many ways an awful human being. He spent his life sponging off Friedrich Engels. He was such an inveterate racist, including about his own group, the Jews, that even in the 1910s, when tolerance for such prejudices was higher, the editors of his letters felt obliged to censor them. He got his maid pregnant and dispatched the child to foster parents. Mikhail Bakunin described him as “ambitious and vain, quarrelsome, intolerant and absolute…vengeful to the point of madness”.

      But combine egomania with genius and you have a formidable force. He believed absolutely that he was right; that he had discovered a key to history that had eluded earlier philosophers. He insisted on promoting his beliefs whatever obstacles fate (or the authorities) put in his way. His notion of happiness was “to fight”; his concept of misery was “to submit”, a trait he shared with Friedrich Nietzsche.
      The third reason is a paradox: the very failure of his ideas to change the world for the better is ensuring them a new lease of life. After Marx’s death in 1883 his followers—particularly Engels—worked hard to turn his theories into a closed system. The pursuit of purity involved vicious factional fights as “real” Marxists drove out renegades, revisionists and heretics. It eventually led to the monstrosity of Marxism-Leninism, with its pretensions to infallibility (“scientific socialism”), its delight in obfuscation (“dialectical materialism”) and its cult of personality (those giant statues of Marx and Lenin).

      The collapse of this petrified orthodoxy has revealed that Marx was a much more interesting man than his interpreters have implied. His grand certainties were a response to grand doubts. His sweeping theories were the result of endless reversals. Toward the end of his life he questioned many of his central convictions. He worried that he might have been wrong about the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. He puzzled over the fact that, far from immiserating the poor, Victorian England was providing them with growing prosperity.

      The chief reason for the continuing interest in Marx, however, is that his ideas are more relevant than they have been for decades. The post-war consensus that shifted power from capital to labour and produced a “great compression” in living standards is fading. Globalisation and the rise of a virtual economy are producing a version of capitalism that once more seems to be out of control. The backwards flow of power from labour to capital is finally beginning to produce a popular—and often populist—reaction. No wonder the most successful economics book of recent years, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, echoes the title of Marx’s most important work and his preoccupation with inequality.

      The prophet of Davos

      Marx argued that capitalism is in essence a system of rent-seeking: rather than creating wealth from nothing, as they like to imagine, capitalists are in the business of expropriating the wealth of others. Marx was wrong about capitalism in the raw: great entrepreneurs do amass fortunes by dreaming up new products or new ways of organising production. But he had a point about capitalism in its bureaucratic form. A depressing number of today’s bosses are corporate bureaucrats rather than wealth-creators, who use convenient formulae to make sure their salaries go ever upwards. They work hand in glove with a growing crowd of other rent-seekers, such as management consultants (who dream up new excuses for rent-seeking), professional board members (who get where they are by not rocking the boat) and retired politicians (who spend their twilight years sponging off firms they once regulated).

      Capitalism, Marx maintained, is by its nature a global system: “It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” That is as true today as it was in the Victorian era. The two most striking developments of the past 30 years are the progressive dismantling of barriers to the free movement of the factors of production—goods, capital and to some extent people—and the rise of the emerging world. Global firms plant their flags wherever it is most convenient. Borderless CEOs shuttle from one country to another in pursuit of efficiencies. The World Economic Forum’s annual jamboree in Davos, Switzerland, might well be retitled “Marx was right”.
      He thought capitalism had a tendency towards monopoly, as successful capitalists drive their weaker rivals out of business in a prelude to extracting monopoly rents. Again this seems to be a reasonable description of the commercial world that is being shaped by globalisation and the internet. The world’s biggest companies are not only getting bigger in absolute terms but are also turning huge numbers of smaller companies into mere appendages. New-economy behemoths are exercising a market dominance not seen since America’s robber barons. Facebook and Google suck up two-thirds of America’s online ad revenues. Amazon controls more than 40% of the country’s booming online-shopping market. In some countries Google processes over 90% of web searches. Not only is the medium the message but the platform is also the market.

      In Marx’s view capitalism yielded an army of casual labourers who existed from one job to the other. During the long post-war boom this seemed like a nonsense. Far from having nothing to lose but their chains, the workers of the world—at least the rich world—had secure jobs, houses in the suburbs and a cornucopia of possessions. Marxists such as Herbert Marcuse were forced to denounce capitalism on the grounds that it produced too much wealth for the workers rather than too little.

      Yet once again Marx’s argument is gaining urgency. The gig economy is assembling a reserve force of atomised labourers who wait to be summoned, via electronic foremen, to deliver people’s food, clean their houses or act as their chauffeurs. In Britain house prices are so high that people under 45 have little hope of buying them. Most American workers say they have just a few hundred dollars in the bank. Marx’s proletariat is being reborn as the precariat.
      Still, the rehabilitation ought not to go too far. Marx’s errors far outnumbered his insights. His insistence that capitalism drives workers’ living standards to subsistence level is absurd. The genius of capitalism is that it relentlessly reduces the price of regular consumer items: today’s workers have easy access to goods once considered the luxuries of monarchs. The World Bank calculates that the number of people in “extreme poverty” has declined from 1.85bn in 1990 to 767m in 2013, a figure that puts the regrettable stagnation of living standards for Western workers in perspective. Marx’s vision of a post-capitalist future is both banal and dangerous: banal because it presents a picture of people essentially loafing about (hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, raising cattle in the evening and criticising after dinner); dangerous because it provides a licence for the self-anointed vanguard to impose its vision on the masses.
      Marx’s greatest failure, however, was that he underestimated the power of reform—the ability of people to solve the evident problems of capitalism through rational discussion and compromise. He believed history was a chariot thundering to a predetermined end and that the best that the charioteers can do is hang on. Liberal reformers, including his near contemporary William Gladstone, have repeatedly proved him wrong. They have not only saved capitalism from itself by introducing far-reaching reforms but have done so through the power of persuasion. The “superstructure” has triumphed over the “base”, “parliamentary cretinism” over the “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

      Nothing but their chains

      The great theme of history in the advanced world since Marx’s death has been reform rather than revolution. Enlightened politicians extended the franchise so working-class people had a stake in the political system. They renewed the regulatory system so that great economic concentrations were broken up or regulated. They reformed economic management so economic cycles could be smoothed and panics contained. The only countries where Marx’s ideas took hold were backward autocracies such as Russia and China.

      Today’s great question is whether those achievements can be repeated. The backlash against capitalism is mounting—if more often in the form of populist anger than of proletarian solidarity. So far liberal reformers are proving sadly inferior to their predecessors in terms of both their grasp of the crisis and their ability to generate solutions. They should use the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth to reacquaint themselves with the great man—not only to understand the serious faults that he brilliantly identified in the system, but to remind themselves of the disaster that awaits if they fail to confront them.

      This article appeared in the Books and arts section of the print edition under the headline “Second time, farce”

    • Merci !

      The gig economy is assembling a reserve force of atomised labourers who wait to be summoned, via electronic foremen, to deliver people’s food, clean their houses or act as their chauffeurs. In Britain house prices are so high that people under 45 have little hope of buying them. Most American workers say they have just a few hundred dollars in the bank. Marx’s proletariat is being reborn as the precariat.

  • DNA ancestry tests may look cheap. But your data is the price
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/10/dna-ancestry-tests-cheap-data-price-companies-23andme

    Do customers realise that genetic genealogy companies like 23andMe profit by amassing huge biological datasets ? In 1884, at the International Health Exhibition in South Kensington, four million punters came to view the latest scientific marvels : drainage systems, flushing toilets and electrically illuminated fountains. There, the scientist Francis Galton set up the Anthropometric Laboratory, where common folk would pay 3d (around 80p today) to enter, and anonymously fill out a data card. (...)

    #23andMe #algorithme #BigData #génétique #marketing

    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/de5a99eca5bf04f3a9029aac3880a28532198df6/0_0_2347_1408/master/2347.jpg

  • 12 Mistakes that #data Scientists Make and How to Avoid Them
    https://hackernoon.com/12-mistakes-that-data-scientists-make-and-how-to-avoid-them-2ddb26665c2d

    Data analytics can transform how businesses operate. With companies having tons of data today , data analytics can help companies deliver valuable products and services to customers.Becoming a data scientist isn’t an easy task. It needs a mix of problem solving, structured thinking, coding and various technical skills among others to be truly successful. If you are from a non-technical and non-mathematical background, there’s a good chance a lot of your learning happens through books and video courses. Most of these resources don’t teach you what the industry is looking for in a data scientist.In this article I have discussed some of the top mistakes amateur data scientists make ( I have made some of them myself too ). And we will also look at steps you should take to avoid those pitfalls (...)

    #data-analysis #data-science #data-scientist #data-visualization

  • Opinion | How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’ - The New York Times
    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/03/23/opinion/sunday/genetics-race.html

    In 1942, the anthropologist Ashley Montagu published “Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race,” an influential book that argued that race is a social concept with no genetic basis. A classic example often cited is the inconsistent definition of “black.” In the United States, historically, a person is “black” if he has any sub-Saharan African ancestry; in Brazil, a person is not “black” if he is known to have any European ancestry. If “black” refers to different people in different contexts, how can there be any genetic basis to it?

    Beginning in 1972, genetic findings began to be incorporated into this argument. That year, the geneticist Richard Lewontin published an important study of variation in protein types in blood. He grouped the human populations he analyzed into seven “races” — West Eurasians, Africans, East Asians, South Asians, Native Americans, Oceanians and Australians — and found that around 85 percent of variation in the protein types could be accounted for by variation within populations and “races,” and only 15 percent by variation across them. To the extent that there was variation among humans, he concluded, most of it was because of “differences between individuals.”

    In this way, a consensus was established that among human populations there are no differences large enough to support the concept of “biological race.” Instead, it was argued, race is a “social construct,” a way of categorizing people that changes over time and across countries.

    It is true that race is a social construct. It is also true, as Dr. Lewontin wrote, that human populations “are remarkably similar to each other” from a genetic point of view.

    But over the years this consensus has morphed, seemingly without questioning, into an orthodoxy. The orthodoxy maintains that the average genetic differences among people grouped according to today’s racial terms are so trivial when it comes to any meaningful biological traits that those differences can be ignored.

    The orthodoxy goes further, holding that we should be anxious about any research into genetic differences among populations. The concern is that such research, no matter how well-intentioned, is located on a slippery slope that leads to the kinds of pseudoscientific arguments about biological difference that were used in the past to try to justify the slave trade, the eugenics movement and the Nazis’ murder of six million Jews.

    I have deep sympathy for the concern that genetic discoveries could be misused to justify racism. But as a geneticist I also know that it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among “races.”

    Groundbreaking advances in DNA sequencing technology have been made over the last two decades. These advances enable us to measure with exquisite accuracy what fraction of an individual’s genetic ancestry traces back to, say, West Africa 500 years ago — before the mixing in the Americas of the West African and European gene pools that were almost completely isolated for the last 70,000 years. With the help of these tools, we are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.

    Recent genetic studies have demonstrated differences across populations not just in the genetic determinants of simple traits such as skin color, but also in more complex traits like bodily dimensions and susceptibility to diseases. For example, we now know that genetic factors help explain why northern Europeans are taller on average than southern Europeans, why multiple sclerosis is more common in European-Americans than in African-Americans, and why the reverse is true for end-stage kidney disease.

    I am worried that well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations are digging themselves into an indefensible position, one that will not survive the onslaught of science. I am also worried that whatever discoveries are made — and we truly have no idea yet what they will be — will be cited as “scientific proof” that racist prejudices and agendas have been correct all along, and that those well-meaning people will not understand the science well enough to push back against these claims.

    This is why it is important, even urgent, that we develop a candid and scientifically up-to-date way of discussing any such differences, instead of sticking our heads in the sand and being caught unprepared when they are found.

    To get a sense of what modern genetic research into average biological differences across populations looks like, consider an example from my own work. Beginning around 2003, I began exploring whether the population mixture that has occurred in the last few hundred years in the Americas could be leveraged to find risk factors for prostate cancer, a disease that occurs 1.7 times more often in self-identified African-Americans than in self-identified European-Americans. This disparity had not been possible to explain based on dietary and environmental differences, suggesting that genetic factors might play a role.

    Self-identified African-Americans turn out to derive, on average, about 80 percent of their genetic ancestry from enslaved Africans brought to America between the 16th and 19th centuries. My colleagues and I searched, in 1,597 African-American men with prostate cancer, for locations in the genome where the fraction of genes contributed by West African ancestors was larger than it was elsewhere in the genome. In 2006, we found exactly what we were looking for: a location in the genome with about 2.8 percent more African ancestry than the average.

    When we looked in more detail, we found that this region contained at least seven independent risk factors for prostate cancer, all more common in West Africans. Our findings could fully account for the higher rate of prostate cancer in African-Americans than in European-Americans. We could conclude this because African-Americans who happen to have entirely European ancestry in this small section of their genomes had about the same risk for prostate cancer as random Europeans.

    Did this research rely on terms like “African-American” and “European-American” that are socially constructed, and did it label segments of the genome as being probably “West African” or “European” in origin? Yes. Did this research identify real risk factors for disease that differ in frequency across those populations, leading to discoveries with the potential to improve health and save lives? Yes.

    While most people will agree that finding a genetic explanation for an elevated rate of disease is important, they often draw the line there. Finding genetic influences on a propensity for disease is one thing, they argue, but looking for such influences on behavior and cognition is another.

    But whether we like it or not, that line has already been crossed. A recent study led by the economist Daniel Benjamin compiled information on the number of years of education from more than 400,000 people, almost all of whom were of European ancestry. After controlling for differences in socioeconomic background, he and his colleagues identified 74 genetic variations that are over-represented in genes known to be important in neurological development, each of which is incontrovertibly more common in Europeans with more years of education than in Europeans with fewer years of education.

    It is not yet clear how these genetic variations operate. A follow-up study of Icelanders led by the geneticist Augustine Kong showed that these genetic variations also nudge people who carry them to delay having children. So these variations may be explaining longer times at school by affecting a behavior that has nothing to do with intelligence.

    This study has been joined by others finding genetic predictors of behavior. One of these, led by the geneticist Danielle Posthuma, studied more than 70,000 people and found genetic variations in more than 20 genes that were predictive of performance on intelligence tests.

    Is performance on an intelligence test or the number of years of school a person attends shaped by the way a person is brought up? Of course. But does it measure something having to do with some aspect of behavior or cognition? Almost certainly. And since all traits influenced by genetics are expected to differ across populations (because the frequencies of genetic variations are rarely exactly the same across populations), the genetic influences on behavior and cognition will differ across populations, too.

    You will sometimes hear that any biological differences among populations are likely to be small, because humans have diverged too recently from common ancestors for substantial differences to have arisen under the pressure of natural selection. This is not true. The ancestors of East Asians, Europeans, West Africans and Australians were, until recently, almost completely isolated from one another for 40,000 years or longer, which is more than sufficient time for the forces of evolution to work. Indeed, the study led by Dr. Kong showed that in Iceland, there has been measurable genetic selection against the genetic variations that predict more years of education in that population just within the last century.

    To understand why it is so dangerous for geneticists and anthropologists to simply repeat the old consensus about human population differences, consider what kinds of voices are filling the void that our silence is creating. Nicholas Wade, a longtime science journalist for The New York Times, rightly notes in his 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History,” that modern research is challenging our thinking about the nature of human population differences. But he goes on to make the unfounded and irresponsible claim that this research is suggesting that genetic factors explain traditional stereotypes.

    One of Mr. Wade’s key sources, for example, is the anthropologist Henry Harpending, who has asserted that people of sub-Saharan African ancestry have no propensity to work when they don’t have to because, he claims, they did not go through the type of natural selection for hard work in the last thousands of years that some Eurasians did. There is simply no scientific evidence to support this statement. Indeed, as 139 geneticists (including myself) pointed out in a letter to The New York Times about Mr. Wade’s book, there is no genetic evidence to back up any of the racist stereotypes he promotes.

    Another high-profile example is James Watson, the scientist who in 1953 co-discovered the structure of DNA, and who was forced to retire as head of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in 2007 after he stated in an interview — without any scientific evidence — that research has suggested that genetic factors contribute to lower intelligence in Africans than in Europeans.

    At a meeting a few years later, Dr. Watson said to me and my fellow geneticist Beth Shapiro something to the effect of “When are you guys going to figure out why it is that you Jews are so much smarter than everyone else?” He asserted that Jews were high achievers because of genetic advantages conferred by thousands of years of natural selection to be scholars, and that East Asian students tended to be conformist because of selection for conformity in ancient Chinese society. (Contacted recently, Dr. Watson denied having made these statements, maintaining that they do not represent his views; Dr. Shapiro said that her recollection matched mine.)

    What makes Dr. Watson’s and Mr. Wade’s statements so insidious is that they start with the accurate observation that many academics are implausibly denying the possibility of average genetic differences among human populations, and then end with a claim — backed by no evidence — that they know what those differences are and that they correspond to racist stereotypes. They use the reluctance of the academic community to openly discuss these fraught issues to provide rhetorical cover for hateful ideas and old racist canards.

    This is why knowledgeable scientists must speak out. If we abstain from laying out a rational framework for discussing differences among populations, we risk losing the trust of the public and we actively contribute to the distrust of expertise that is now so prevalent. We leave a vacuum that gets filled by pseudoscience, an outcome that is far worse than anything we could achieve by talking openly.

    If scientists can be confident of anything, it is that whatever we currently believe about the genetic nature of differences among populations is most likely wrong. For example, my laboratory discovered in 2016, based on our sequencing of ancient human genomes, that “whites” are not derived from a population that existed from time immemorial, as some people believe. Instead, “whites” represent a mixture of four ancient populations that lived 10,000 years ago and were each as different from one another as Europeans and East Asians are today.

    So how should we prepare for the likelihood that in the coming years, genetic studies will show that many traits are influenced by genetic variations, and that these traits will differ on average across human populations? It will be impossible — indeed, anti-scientific, foolish and absurd — to deny those differences.

    For me, a natural response to the challenge is to learn from the example of the biological differences that exist between males and females. The differences between the sexes are far more profound than those that exist among human populations, reflecting more than 100 million years of evolution and adaptation. Males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material — a Y chromosome that males have and that females don’t, and a second X chromosome that females have and males don’t.

    Most everyone accepts that the biological differences between males and females are profound. In addition to anatomical differences, men and women exhibit average differences in size and physical strength. (There are also average differences in temperament and behavior, though there are important unresolved questions about the extent to which these differences are influenced by social expectations and upbringing.)

    How do we accommodate the biological differences between men and women? I think the answer is obvious: We should both recognize that genetic differences between males and females exist and we should accord each sex the same freedoms and opportunities regardless of those differences.

    It is clear from the inequities that persist between women and men in our society that fulfilling these aspirations in practice is a challenge. Yet conceptually it is straightforward. And if this is the case with men and women, then it is surely the case with whatever differences we may find among human populations, the great majority of which will be far less profound.

    An abiding challenge for our civilization is to treat each human being as an individual and to empower all people, regardless of what hand they are dealt from the deck of life. Compared with the enormous differences that exist among individuals, differences among populations are on average many times smaller, so it should be only a modest challenge to accommodate a reality in which the average genetic contributions to human traits differ.

    It is important to face whatever science will reveal without prejudging the outcome and with the confidence that we can be mature enough to handle any findings. Arguing that no substantial differences among human populations are possible will only invite the racist misuse of genetics that we wish to avoid.

    David Reich is a professor of genetics at Harvard and the author of the forthcoming book “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past,” from which this article is adapted.

    #USA #eugénisme #racisme