Science

This article from The Economist is worth a read to understand their position on brain research and the use of primates in studies:

And were laboratories in China and Japan to come up with treatments for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s as a result of their studies of monkeys’ brains, it would be near impossible for Western countries to refuse to buy them to treat their citizens. Leaving others to do the dirty work of generating knowledge using means you consider to be unethical, while at the same time encouraging it by adding to demand is not taking the moral high ground. It is hypocrisy. Better for Western countries to carry out the necessary but troubling research them- selves, working to the standards they deem necessary.

Tim Hart, in an article at The Financial Times, wrote an interesting article about the use of spreadsheets in business and science. I just had to save this quote:

Or say you’re a genetics researcher typing in the name of a gene such as “Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1”, or March1 for short, or perhaps the Sept1 gene. You can imagine what Excel does next. It turns those gene names into dates. One study estimated that 20 per cent of all genetics papers had errors caused by Excel’s autocorrect Microsoft’s defence is simple enough: the default settings are intended to work in everyday scenarios. Which is the polite way of saying: Guys, Excel wasn’t designed for genetics researchers. It was designed for accountants (…) And yet when the genetics research community were wrestling with the autocorrecting genes issue, they resigned themselves to the hard truth that they would never wean people off Excel. Instead, the folks in charge — the Hugo Gene Nomenclature Committee — decided to change the names of the genes in question.

Very interesting to see a scientific paradigm shift — as described by Kuhn — happening before our eyes concerning the role of droplets versus aerosols in the transmission of Covid-19. This opinion piece by Dr. Tufekci at The New York Times gives some more information about why these facts took so long to accept. Another article at Wired gives some more background on the old scientific theories.

In The Netherlands I can also see this reflected in the RIVM guidelines. Until April 2021 they stated the following concerning aerosol transmission:

Het is op dit moment niet duidelijk of de kleine druppels (aerosolen) die in de lucht blijven hangen een rol spelen bij de verspreiding van het virus. Mochten ze een rol spelen in de verspreiding, dan is dit een minder belangrijke verspreidingsroute dan van de grotere druppels. Het beeld van de verspreiding van SARS-CoV-2 is hetzelfde als dat van andere virussen die door grote druppels worden overgedragen.

While current RIVM guidelines state the following.

Onder bepaalde omstandigheden kan besmetting ook plaatsvinden via virusdeeltjes die in de kleine druppeltjes (aerosolen) een grotere afstand kunnen afleggen. Bijvoorbeeld in ruimtes waar geen of te weinig ventilatie is en/of veel mensen, vooral voor een langere tijd,- bij elkaar zijn. Overdracht van het SARS-CoV-2-virus via luchtkanalen van ventilatiesystemen is niet waargenomen.

Happy to learn more about Belgian philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers. Learn more about her here in an introduction by Bruno Latour.

Isabelle Stengers has chosen to look for a touchstone distinguishing good science from bad not in epistemology but in ontology, not in the word but in the world.

If scientists are surprised by the ways she demarcates good from bad science, the many people who, from the ranks of feminism, ecology, leftism, think she is their allies should brace themselves for some hard lessons, more exactly, from the lessons she keeps drawing from hard sciences. Going from science to politics is not, for her, going from stringent constraints to more relaxed ones, but keeping exactly the same objectives with a total indifference to what is science and what is society. Domination in politics has many of the same ingredients it has in the laboratory, that is, the unability to let the people one deals with any chance to redefine the situation in their own terms. If this principle subverts so many disciplines from the inside, it subverts even more political stands from the outside, and especially so many of the “standpoint politics” where the outcome of the analysis is entirely determined from the start by the position of the speaker.

Just going through some of the prep material for my upcoming workshop on data management when all of a sudden:

Via @BrunoLatourAIME and The Guardian on changes to how standard kilogram is defined: ““If aliens ever visit Earth what else would we talk about other than physics?” said Schlamming…”.