Eugenics is apparently making a comeback

October 19, 2007

I love me some DNA, but I am not loving James Watson right now. The Nobel winning biologist most famous for his part in the discovery of DNA structure has hit some nerves across the country with his racist remarks.

LONDON, England (CNN) — Nobel laureate biologist James Watson was suspended Friday from his longtime post at a research laboratory and canceled his planned British book tour after controversial comments that black people are not as intelligent as white people. Watson, 79, an American who won the 1962 Nobel prize for his role in discovering the double-helix structure of DNA, apologized Thursday for his remarks — but not before London’s Science Museum canceled his talk there, planned for Friday evening.

The controversy began with an October 14 interview Watson gave to the Sunday Times, which quoted him saying 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.” Watson also asserted there was no reason to believe different races separated by geography should have evolved identically, and he said that while he hoped everyone was equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true.” The biologist apologized “unreservedly” Thursday for his comments and said he was “mortified” by the words attributed to him.

Watson is no stranger to controversy; he has a history of saying offensive and often scientifically inaccurate statements:

In 1997, Britain’s Sunday Telegraph quoted Watson as saying that if a gene for homosexuality were isolated, women who find that their unborn child has the gene should be allowed to have an abortion. During a lecture tour in 2000, he suggested there might be links between skin color and sexual prowess and between a person’s weight and their level of ambition. And in a British TV documentary that aired in 2003, Watson suggested that stupidity was a genetic disease that should be treated.

I have a theory about his statements. My theory is that the old man in a racist homophobe who feels superior to most people and is now senile enough to say what he thinks in public. I mean theory in the scientific way, like the theory of evolution.


One Laptop Per Child

September 24, 2007

“It’s an education project, not a laptop project.”   — Nicholas Negroponte

This morning while I was comfortably sitting at my computer before school saving a document to my flash drive to bring to the lab of computers at school, I thought how different life would be without computers.  I am sort of a tech geek so of course computers are important to my life, but almost everyone I know (even those people who are terrible with computer..cough…cough…Christina) uses a computer at least once  day.   The thought brought me back to one of my favorite topics: the One Laptop Per Child Project.

For those of you who don’t already know, the project is a global initiative to bring affordable (originally ~100$ but more like 180$) computers to developing nations.  The idea is that technology is the route to education and education is the route to equality.  From the project’s website (laptop.org) :

OLPC is not, at heart, a technology program, nor is the XO a product in any conventional sense of the word. OLPC is a non-profit organization providing a means to an end—an end that sees children in even the most remote regions of the globe being given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community.

So I scanned the news for the most recent update, and sure enough the project is proceeding forward and there is a new development.

OLPC has just launched OLPC USA: XO-1 laptop sales at $400 per computer in a ‘Give 1 Get 1′ program. A two-week programme from November 12 will enable the US and Canadian buyers to pay $399 for an XO laptop created for the third world – and for each one sold to them, another will be given for free to a child in a developing nation.


Intense Photography

September 19, 2007

This is a long entry, but it is about something I really think everyone should see. One of my favorite parts of Newsweek are the photo essays. The clarity and the conscience of the pictures always amaze me. It’s like the photographers actually tell you something in each picture. And the subjects often speak for themselves. Newsweek does its part by providing helpful captions and additional information. Sometimes the photo essays accompany entire articles, one in particular stood out for me: How AIDS changed America. The article was interesting and well written, next to the article there is a link to the slide show as well.

Msnbc hosts a ton of Newsweek photo essays on their site. Newsweek Photos. Unfortunately I cannot link directly to them, you have to pick the one to look at from the list. I think they are all worth checking out. But specifically the following ones are excellent (its not my fault it distorted the icons, I blame wordpress):

Here is one picture from the “Smallest Slaves” essay, since I don’t have enough blog memory to post my favorites from each:

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