Friday, 10 October 2014

Data Driven Biology

This is where biology is going to go. Everyone always thinks that biology is the easiest of the sciences, but in terms of building models and making predictions it is by far the hardest. Maths and physics are trivial by comparison to modelling even the simplest living creature.

We need more data, more computer power and more maths to generate theoretical biology. It has been tried many times before, the last version was systems biology that fell flat on its face with excessive claims and little foundation. So what next?

Biology with:

  • Remote sensing.
  • Continuous monitoring.
  • Multiple level measures (from the molecular to the whole organism).
  • Microfluidics.
  • Next Generation Sequencing.
  • Medical Informatics.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Bill Maher is wrong it is Islamophobia

I wrote this in response to this video posted on Facebook by Bill Maher. I usually like Bill but over Islam he is wrong.

Lets have a look at what Christianity looked like after 1000 years of its creation - they were cutting breasts off women who believed in free love, burning women and non-Christians. The muslims in Spain tolerated other religions until they were massacred by the Christians. Jihadists are no different to the crusaders. There was no equality and there were no Liberal views.

Those are inventions of the last 100 years at the most. Even 100 years ago the "Liberal" Christian west was no better. Until the 1960s homosexuality was illegal in the UK. Until the 1920s women could not vote even in the UK.

I am a Liberal. IS is an abomination but conflating it with Islam is stupidity and Islamophobia. Sam Harris throws his statistics about British Muslims but who carried it out? When and where? You win by changing minds and educating not by painting everyone as an enemy. On this I think Bill is wrong and that he has been misled by his views from the skewed US media. He can say the Koran says xxx to homosexuals and apostates and women, but so does the Bible. No Jewish or Christian follows the bible literally so why does he think muslims are going to be literal about the Koran? They are more Conservative with regard to religion, but so is the entire US compared to Europe.

Here are some muslim attitudes statistics for Sam Harris to think about

Or he could look at the schlock polls which are biased and non-systematic which do show increased Conservatism in second generation migrants - much the same as found in the US.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Standing out

This was part of a spam e-mail I got about Optimising HE Curriculum Design
Last year, Sir Michael Barber, the Chief Education Advisor to the world's biggest education firm, Pearson, claimed that Universities must, "mark themselves out of the crowd or risk an avalanche of change sweeping them away."
This actually is a statement about the problem and not the solution. Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Palgrave-Macmillan and the others are all trying to get as much as they can of the multi-billion pound education business. What they want to sell all are complete educational packages of textbooks and content that will all be assessed using their examination boards. Then you will go on to Higher Education and study for a Pearson or McGraw-Hill degree from the University of X or Y as accredited by the publisher. We will end up with cloned students who become cloned graduates. It will be a statisticians dream. All of those norm measured exams, all those nice symmetrical distributions. Governments will love it especially education ministers talking about standards and fairness and how everyone gets the same opportunity. But it will be terrible. It will be an abomination.

Why would we want to train these robots? That is not an education. What can the world do with all of these homogeneous graduates who excel at doing exams and cannot tie their own shoelaces? Where are the real skills? Where is the questioning, the rebellion, the life of a student just finding things out? The world would be a much poorer place if we let them do this. So Sir Michael is right, there is a warning that we need to be progressive and to stand out. But that means standing against the academic publishing behemoths to create an education that is built for purpose and not for profit.