Ed’s Weblog

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Archive for September, 2003

Scotland’s WMD

Posted by Ed on September 30, 2003

According to the Scotsman, a small distillery on the Scottish island of Islay has attracted the attention of the US intelligence services, monitoring compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

You’ll be relieved to hear that the Defence Threat Reduction Agency “were quick to point out that they do not consider Bruichladdich to be a threat to world peace”.

The managing director of the distillery had this to say:

“We produce 16,000 cases a year, a weapon of mass drunkenness.”

Read it here.


Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Risk assessment and the media

Posted by Ed on September 26, 2003

The BMJ has a very interesting article about risk assessment in the context of the MMR vaccine, vCJD and road accidents. The author analyses parental perception of risk and observes (unsurprisingly) that it bears little resemblance to actual risk.

Road transport crashes are perceptible risks, the low risk of vCJD is an expert assessment, and the link between autism and MMR is, if anything, virtual. Parents seem to neglect the easily perceptible risk, to reject the expert assessment, and to amplify the virtual risk.

It may seem from this that the public has misunderstood the risk assessment, with the help of misleading information from the media (this has been discussed before on this weblog: here and here). The author dismisses this, however, claiming that ‘it would be a mistake to suppose that the media led the public’.

Instead the author claims that parents are being entirely rational and merely assessing relative risk, or risk:benefit ratio. That is to say: its easy to reject the MMR vaccine with its perceived risk and rely on ‘the compliance of the majority in order to secure the benefit of herd immunity for their child’ (apparent risk of harm from MMR outweighs potential benefit); to simply avoid eating ‘mechanically recovered meat’ in the case of vCJD (no risk from not eating meat); or justify taking your child everywhere in the car despite the inherent high risks (‘In 2002 there were 34 689 casualties from road crashes in Great Britain, of whom 4596 received serious injuries or were killed’) because

it is interpreted as a way of protecting them from greater dangers on the streets from other road users and abduction by strangers.

I’m sure all of this is true and the majority of parents are entirely rational, but despite that I still believe the media did and does lead the public. After all, what is the real risk of being ‘abducted by strangers’, compared to the other risk which it is being used to justify?

See The Observer’s report about the perceptions and realities related to crime.

Posted in Media | Leave a Comment »

Bike, anyone?

Posted by Ed on September 22, 2003

Anyone wanna buy a bike? Lovely nick, one careful owner etc. etc. Runs like a dream. To you just 1500 Euro-bucks, mate.

Click here to make me an offer.


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New Powerbooks

Posted by Ed on September 16, 2003

Apple today announced the upgrade of its Powerbooks, bringing the top-level 15″ (almost) up to the same spec as the 17″ (apart from screen-size, dummy): 1.25GHz G4, DDR RAM, ATI Radeon, Airport extreme, Firewire+USB2, Superdrive, etc., etc.

And best of all, and I quote, “futuristic backlit keyboard with ambient light sensor”.

Now, where did I leave that credit-card…

Posted in Web/Tech | 1 Comment »

Free University lives up to its name

Posted by Ed on September 15, 2003

The Vrije Universiteit and Erasmus MC are the latest institutions to sign up to Biomed Central, bringing the number of Dutch centres to five. This means that researchers at these institutions can now publish in BMC’s Open Access journals, such as Biomedical Engineering Online, without having to pay the $500 processing charge.

The UK currently has the most members, after all UK universities became members in one fell swoop a few weeks ago.

Will the TU Delft be next?

Posted in Science | Leave a Comment »

New Zealand Gallery

Posted by Ed on September 13, 2003

Click here to view my latest photo album, North island, New Zealand.

Sea Kayak at Cathedral Cove

Posted in Photography | 1 Comment »

Open-source software

Posted by Ed on September 12, 2003

The Economist has an article on government use of open-source software, and why Microsoft should be scared of it. Read it here.

Posted in Web/Tech | Leave a Comment »

No forest!

Posted by Ed on September 11, 2003

I’ve just submitted another article (it’s been a good day), this time to IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. They have an excellent system which allows for the electronic submission of manuscripts, tracking of the progress of your submission and efficient processing of the final version (hopefully).

So no need to destroy a small forest this time.

Posted in Science | Leave a Comment »

A small forest

Posted by Ed on September 11, 2003

I’ve just submitted an article to Clinical Biomechanics, which, because they still live in The Dark Ages, cannot be done electronically. They require four hard copies, single-sided, double-spaced with all figures and tables on seperate sheets. This means that I’ve just posted more than 100 sheets of A4 paper, enough for a small forest. This alone should be reason enough to use online, open access journals such as Biomedical Engineering Online. Next time then.

Posted in Science | Leave a Comment »

9/11 Anniversary

Posted by Ed on September 10, 2003

September 11 is an important anniversary for many people. It was on this day 30 years ago that the Chilean government of Salvador Allende was toppled. The Guardian has a special report on the coup, the start of a 17-year-long military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet.

The Economist also has an article on the legacy of the coup. From The Economist:

Allende’s fall brought General Augusto Pinochet to power for 17 years. His dictatorship ushered in free-market reforms that led to Chile’s rapid growth in the 1990s, but it also unleashed appalling violence. Around 3,000 died, and many more—possibly hundreds of thousands, according to Alfredo Jocelyn-Holt, an historian—were tortured, in order to install and keep General Pinochet in power.

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »