Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Reading List

As the bunnies prepare for summer vacation, Eli has a few suggestions. The first (or really the first and the second) are books by Patrick Leigh Fermor, described as a youth as a “dangerous mixture of sophistication and recklessness”, something that the Bunny hopes others hold against him

Leigh Fermor was (he recently died at the age of 96) a combination of Charlie Sheen, James Bond and Indiana Jones. His death has unleashed an avalanche of envious obituaries

After being kicked out of school and not really finding anything, he decided to walk across Europe from Holland to Istanbul to have something to do. He started in 1932, with a ferry to Hook van Holland and ended in 1935. Two books describing this, written in his old age and a promised third, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water are perhaps the best travel books ever written. Many readers anxiously awaited the third for decades, covering the last leg of his journey, which perhaps may or may not appear with rumors of at least a draft existing or not as the case may be.

For those of you looking for a science slog, does the bacterium GFAJ-1 use arsenic instead of phosphorous has hit Science with a vengeance with the actual paper being published in print accompanied by a phalanx of NOs, eight out of twenty five being printed as technical comments along with a reply.

For those interested in what happens when scientists make a prediction, Science also reports that seven geophysicists are to face trial in Italy for not having predicted the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. More precisely at a meeting they said that the probability of a quake in light of recent seismic activity, was not high, although it could not be ruled out. This, according to the prosecutors, falsely reassured the town. There is, as Reader Rabett's may have guessed, politics here, this playing into claims by Gioacchino Giuliani that predictions could be made by monitoring radon. According to Thomas Jordan, a seismologist at USC, More details here and here

“There is a fine line between giving information that is scientifically accurate and information that can be actionable by the public,” he notes. Jordan points out that his commission has recommended that Italy, as well as other countries, needs to improve the way it communicates the risks of earthquakes to decision-makers and the public. He also says that the action taken in response to changing forecasts needs to be put on a more systematic basis. “If there is an 80% or 90% chance of a quake, then you have to consider evacuation,” Jordan says. “But what should you do when the probability rises from one chance in 10,000 to one chance in 100? Those kind of questions remain unanswered.”
And, this week, Science has a short note on the threats to Australian scientists covered at Deltoid, noting that some have been relocated to secure offices

Consider this an open thread. But then again, you always do (and Eli has no complaint)


Anonymous said...

If you say they're good, Eli, that's good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

Where is America's Conversation?

h/t Only in it for the Gold

Pete Dunkelberg

Anonymous said...

Former French Minister of Science, socialist and highly sited scientist.

Claude Allègre: L'imposture climatique

EliRabett said...

Well yes, Allègre is potted.