Friday, 31 October 2008

Boston in one week!

I leave in one week today to attend the iGEM jamboree at MIT in Boston. Totally uberexcited about it.
We spend three days at the Jamboree, and one extra day to see Boston. I hope to get a tour of the Medical School at MIT, or maybe get a chance to meet Craig Mello (who I've had the pleasure of seeing lecture before) or H. Robert Horvitz! We're also going to visit Harvard, but from what I hear, you cant get into any of the buildings except the bookstore if you're not a student. The guards make very sure of that.

I admit, though, that I'm not very familiar with Boston, so if anyone out there knows of things to see in the city let me know!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Need I give more proof?

In my last post I showed a video, which I claimed depicted the average McCain supporter. It was a video of one, and only one, woman and her beliefs. Perhaps I need more proof that the average McCain supporter is an ignorant waste of organic matter. Well, here it is (video below):

There are more slurs, insults, lies, and incomprehensible ignorance spewing from the mouths of that crowd than I can count. The scene reminds me of a KKK rally sans the white sheets - they expel the same hatred and filth. These people compose a large portion of McCain's support, and both McCain and Palin do little but pander to their interests. The whole ACORN voting fraud and Ayers connection smear campaigns are proof of that; indeed, the McCain campaign is guilty of starting many of the nasty, ignorant, uninformed rumors and misconceptions that his fervorous, mindless proponents howl.

And what was the crowd in that clip getting so worked up over? That footage was taken at a Palin rally, but you'd think it was an angry mob that showed up outside Obama's house. Perhaps they should consider yelling out reasons why McCain will make the country a better place if they wish to win over undecided voters or Obama supporters, but no, they have to be loud bigots because Obama's a "got-dang baby killing commie Muzzie terr'rist".

It's people like these that make me think that voting should only be a right for those who prove themselves to be informed voters who understand the issues at hand and the platforms of the candidate, and will vote based on who they think will do a better job at making the country worth living in. I would love to see a voter competence exam introduced, but that would never fly because people have the right to vote, no matter how ignorant they are....but that's a topic for some other post.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The sad truth: this is the average McCain supporter

A significant proportion of supporters of McCain are not supporters based on his political platform; rather, the refer to themselves as "values voters". What does that mean, exactly? The video below does a pretty good job of explaining:

Tracy here feels that the most important issue in the upcoming election is "the one who has the most faith in the Lord". Not their foreign policy, not their stance on the current economic crisis, not their thoughts on the war in Iraq, but who believes in God more.

But Tracy's ignorance truly shines when explains why she won't be voting for Obama:
"I can't imagine a President of the United States being named President Obama. I really have a problem with that and I'm not the only one."

If you wont vote for someone based on their name, then you should probably rethink voting at all. And what's really sad is that she's right that she's not the only one who has a problem with Obama's name: the "Obama's a Muslim, just look at his name" thing is common among the fundies, despite the fact that he is a Christian.

And she follows up that gem with the following dumbosity:
"His background. A mother that was atheist. Huh, that really gets to me. A father that was a Muslim. That should get to everyone."

So what if his mother was an atheist (is there even any evidence to support that? I've never heard of this)? What does his father's religion matter (there is actually evidence that points to his father being an atheist, actually)? None of these have any bearing on Obama's faith, and Obama's faith has no bearing on how well he could run the country. Again, if this is the reason you're voting against someone, then you should rethink voting at all.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Oh, if only the world could vote...

I stumbled across and interesting website today that showed an even more interesting statistic.
The website is called If The World Could Vote, and it simply contains a single online poll, open to everyone worldwide, that asks "If you could vote on the American election right now, who would you vote for?".
The results so far look like this (my apologies for the incredibly poor picture quality, check out the results page on the site if you want to save your eyes):
Almost unanimously, the entire would would vote in Obama.

Now, I know there are a lot of problems with internet polls; people can sometimes cast multiple votes, only people with internet connections and computers are included so they only test a select demographic, etc etc, so take this with a grain of salt.

But I thought there were a few interesting things to point out.

First, there are a few countries in which support for McCain is the majority or close to it. Burkina Faso is one such country, with 100% support for the Republicans, but this is with a meager 2 votes so it's hardly accurate. It does seem, however, that many of the former Soviet republics have a higher than average number voting Red: Belarus is a prime example. Countries in and around the Balkans (Macedonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia) also are a bit higher on the McCain scale. What could account for such a trend in these regions? Perhaps a disdain for the Democrat's handling of the Balkan conflict could account for it in the Balkan regions (though this is unlikely, since Bill Clinton seems to be popular in the least in Kosovo, where his likeness has been engraved into the city's tallest building and a statue of the former president has been erected) but what about Belarus? I admit I know very little about Belarusian history so I cannot even begin to guess.

Also interesting is the support for Obama in the US: this poll shows 82% of the votes in his favour. It is my understanding that Obama is currently ahead in the polls, but I don't believe that the numbers are this high.

I have to wonder, though, if this poll is somewhat biased towards Obama. The poll exclusively polls internet users, and I would go so far to say that it includes "core" internet users rather than casual internet users. In general (and, as any visit to an internet forum would confirm *cough*4chan*cough*, I am being very general), the core internet population is more "intellectually based" than the rest of the general population: after all, it does take a degree of technical knowhow to use the internet and it is usually more intellectually minded people who enjoy learning such technical skills. And, I do not think it would be a stretch to claim that support for Obama and the Democrats is high among intellectuals. If this is the case then the high support for Obama is not unexpected.

But then again, who knows? The overall message from this poll (however unfair or inaccurate it may be) is that pretty much the entire world is rooting for Obama. Will America do the same?

Thursday, 9 October 2008

America isnt the only place with crazies running for office.

It seems our great nation of Canada also has its kooks wanting to be in the government.

According to this article from the Edmonton Sun, the district of Sudbury, Ontario is home to one such individual, running for a seat in the upcoming federal election. David Popescu is running as an independent in the Sudbury riding. Yesterday, at the Sudbury Secondary School auditorium, Popescu attended a discussion forum along with his fellow candidates from the NDP, Liberal and First People's National parties. The discussion was a great opportunity for highschool kids to pose questions to the candidates and to get involved in the political scene, even though they're not old enough to vote yet. It was at this forum where Popescu's crazy was on display in its entirety.

First he introduced himself with a public prayer, which is a bit unusual, but isn't something entirely crazy. He proceeded to tell the kids how climate change and economic woes are due to the wickedness of society - a bit loopy. But it wasn't until he was asked his opinion on gay marriage that Popescu was shown to be a total wackjob. His response?

That all homosexuals should be executed.

Someone running for government, here in Canada, said that. I'm absolutely dumbstruck.
And if you think that maybe he was misquoted or that his response was taken out of context, he was later asked to clarify his response. He only reasserted his view saying,
"A young man asked me what I think of homosexual marriages and I said I think homosexuals should be executed...[m]y whole reason for running is the Bible and the Bible couldn't be more clear on that point."
Popescu also told a student who asked about stem cell research that "God would hurt" any woman who had an abortion.

I am, however, somewhat glad to see the highschool kid's reactions to Popescu's comments:
"The crowd jeered and many rose to their feet in protest after Popescu answered another teenager's question on gay marriage."
It's nice to see that the kids know enough to disagree with Popescu's vile ideas.

Nonetheless, I dont really like the police response to the situation:
Police are investigating whether [Popescu] committed a hate crime by telling high school students homosexuals should be executed..."We are actively conducting a criminal investigation in this matter," deputy police chief Frank Elsner said."
I do think that what Popescu was wrong, and I do think that what he said was hateful; but I don't think that he should be thrown in jail for saying it, especially if he was invited to a forum to give his views and was specifically asked about them.

Either way, I'm shocked that such a person could be running for election in our country. I'd really like to say that his remarks have cost him the seat, but frankly, I'm not that sure that it will.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

And this year's Nobel in Chemistry goes to...

...Roger Tsien, Martin Chalfie and Osamu Shimomura for their discovery and development of GFP, green fluorescent protein.

Now this is something that really does deserve a Nobel. GFP and its derivatives have really revolutionized molecular biology. Pretty much everyone who does molecular biology has worked with GFP at one point or another. Since its discovery, an entire field of chemistry has opened up, developing new forms of GFP and other fluorescent proteins, that fluoresce different colours. New uses are being found for GFP all the time. GFP, to put it simply, has made a lot of modern molecular biology possible.

These three fellows weren't my picks for the Chemistry prize, but I had seen Tsien's name tossed around on a few sites as a likely winner. Congratulations to the three of them!

Monday, 6 October 2008

And this year's Nobel in Medicine/Physiology goes to...

...three folks for two different discoveries!

Half the prize was awarded to Harald zur Hausen for his work on the HPV virus; more specifically, for his discovery that types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. His work has, obviously, lead to the new HPV vaccine that is causing an uproar in Christian schools as of late.

The other half of the prize was given to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of HIV. This discovery is possibly the single most important discovery in medicine/virology and it's good to see that it was finally deemed Nobel-worthy; many people have wondered in the past why the prize had not been awarded to them in the 20+ years since their discovery.

I (and many others) had bet on Elizabeth Blackburn for this prize (she was a co-discoverer of telomerase), but she might still get it for the chemistry prize - there are (quite probably unfounded) rumors that the chemistry prize will focus on biochemistry this year. We'll find out for sure on Wednesday.

Keep your eyes peeled, for the Physics prize is announced tomorrow!

The Real American Jesus

I couldn't agree more.