John Oliver is spot on

John Oliver covered the French presidential election last night, and explains what is at stake

It is hard to overstate the importance of this election, and the consequences if Le Pen wins. It could very well lead to the collapse of the EU, since it is highly unlikely that Germany would be able to work together with a fascist like Le Pen.

Upcoming events in Copenhagen

This post is an experiment, where I share events that I thought might be of interest to my Copenhagen readers – they are mostly related to science, feminism, and tech. I have left out any events that are sold out at the time of my writing.

I am thinking of creating similar posts from time to time (by-weekly or monthly). If you think this is a good idea, please let me know in the comments. Also, please let me know if there is anything you think I have missed.

Note: a lot of the links will take you to facebook, as they have been shared as facebook events.

April 20th:

April 21st:

April 22nd:

April 23rd:

April 24th:

April 25th:

April 26th:

April 29th:

May 1st:

May 4th:

May 8th:

May 15th:

May 16th:

May 18th:

 

 

Lazy linking

Catching up on sharing interesting links – some of these might be used for posts in the future.

Seems like the far-right is spreading everywhere, including into the more niche communities, such as the furries. This has led to this article, which must be a headline writer’s wet dream (warning Daily Mail link)

Neo-Nazi furries uproar causes convention cancelation

The rise of the alt-right movement has many people nervous about the spread of neo-Nazi sympathies – and the furry community is apparently not immune to these political trends.

In shocking news, the Rocky Mountain Fur Con, the annual event that brings together furries, has been canceled after a splinter group known as the Furry Raiders came under fire for embracing ‘altfur’ symbols similar to those of Nazis and fascists.

Furries are pretty much at the bottom of the internet pecking order, but I can’t help notice that unlike many other groups that the far right has tried to infiltrate, they actually take action – in this case cancelling the convention.

My fellow FreethoughtBlogger Crip Dyke has written a great blogpost about the One Drop rule

The One Drop Rule

Shermer has had an abomination of a tweet called out by PZ Myers over on Pharyngula, and I’m sure most of you have read that. There are many good points to make about it and a number have been made there, but here I’d like to say something that hasn’t been mentioned yet over there. Here, I’d like to offer some praise for a One Drop Rule.

The One Drop Rule that Crip Dyke is praising is not the one that we generally know, but rather the inverse one – the one where minorities took in anyone who was forced out by the One Drop Rule, providing a community and a home for them.

This article is a year old, but it is important to keep sharing it, since the stereotype still exists, and forms policy in the US

A racist stereotype is shattered: Study finds white youth are more likely to abuse hard drugs than black youth

By now we can all agree that the real target of Reagan’s enduring war on drugs was never drugs, it was African Americans. But if rising incarceration rates among black youth or the utter failure to curtail drug use is not enough proof, perhaps a new study from Northwestern University on racial differences among drug users will do the trick.

According to the study’s findings recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, abuse and dependence on “hard drugs” (opiates, amphetamine, etc.) are “less common among delinquent African American youth than those who are non-Hispanic white.”

It can be debated whether the “war of drugs” is a good idea or not (though I think most of my readers will on the side of thinking it being a bad idea), but studies like this clearly shows that the law is being used to target minorities rather than doing what they are supposed to do.

 

The next link is an interesting article about mixed up identities and the slow awakening of the awareness of racial prejudice of a white woman in the US.

For 18 years, I thought she was stealing my identity. Until I found her

A woman apparently using my name meant a nightmare of unpaid traffic fines and a criminal record. But when I tracked her down, a different story emerged

Most of the problems encountered in the article is due to the lack of a national identity in the US, where people get confused with other people all the time (something John Oliver has covered relating to credit scores), but I found it interesting how the author slowly become aware of the racial prejudice that affected her namesake(s)

I had never been to any other kind of court except traffic court (at which, both times, the police officers had flat-out lied). While I was familiar with the statistics –75.6% of arrestees for misdemeanor crimes are African Americans or Hispanic – the reality took my breath away. Like any other privileged white person living in the protected segregation of New York, who isn’t directly dealing with the New York criminal justice system, I hadn’t seen it first hand. The room was almost entirely filled with people of color, other than the judge, the court-appointed lawyer, and me. Most of them had summonses for smoking pot, one of the city’s least offensive offenses.

 

It is incredible hard to hide one’s identity on the internet, especially if you are a public person, but you’d think that the head of the FBI would be able to do so. Apparently not.

This Is Almost Certainly James Comey’s Twitter Account

Digital security and its discontents—from Hillary Clinton’s emails to ransomware to Tor hacks—is in many ways one of the chief concerns of the contemporary FBI. So it makes sense that the bureau’s director, James Comey, would dip his toe into the digital torrent with a Twitter account. It also makes sense, given Comey’s high profile, that he would want that Twitter account to be a secret from the world, lest his follows and favs be scrubbed for clues about what the feds are up to. What is somewhat surprising, however, is that it only took me about four hours of sleuthing to find Comey’s account, which is not protected.

Going to IT conferences, where security is often covered, has left me a bit cynical about the chances of hiding, or even protecting yourself, on the internet, but it seems Comey has done some pretty basic mistakes, which a person in his position should have avoided (e.g. not making the profile private).

 

This Scandinavia and the World strip pretty much summons up Brexit.

 

Berkeley Breathed made a great April 1st joke: A merger of Berkeley Breathed and Calvin and Hobbes. This even let to a great comic strip:

April 1st comic strip

Berkeley Breathed with Calvin and Hobbes

When do you stop being a good man?

TW: Mentions of rape.

Apparently rape is not enough for a man to not be a good man – at least not according to Fourth District Court Judge Thomas Low

“The court had no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man,” Low said just moments before sentencing Keith Vallejo to prison for sexually abusing the two females. “But great men, sometimes do bad things,” Low continued.

According to the article, the Judge said this while at least one of the victims sat in the room.

When feminists talk about rape culture, this is the sort of thing they mean. A man is accused and convicted of raping someone, and the judge still call him an “extraordinarily good man”.

The civil rights group Restore Our Humanity, is going to file a complaint against the judge. Hopefully this will remove the judge from any similar cases in the future.

Honoring Inge Lehmann

On May 15th, the University of Copenhagen will hold a symposium celebrating Inge Lehmann. As part of the celebration, a monument honoring her and her discovery will be unveiled on Frue Plads. Frue Plads is a square located just in front of the historical buildings of the University, and the square contains busts of prominent alumni of the university, including several prominent scientists (like Niels Bohr), but not, to my knowledge, any honoring a woman.

So, who is Inge Lehmann, and why is she honored by the University of Copenhagen?

To answer that, let’s go to wikipedia’s entry on her:

Inge Lehmann ForMemRS (13 May 1888 – 21 February 1993) was a Danish seismologist and geophysicist. In 1936, she discovered that the Earth has a solid inner core inside a molten outer core. Before that, seismologists believed Earth’s core to be a single molten sphere, being unable, however, to explain careful measurements of seismic waves from earthquakes, which were inconsistent with the Earth having a single molten core. Lehmann analysed the seismic wave measurements and concluded that Earth must have a solid inner core and a molten outer core to produce seismic waves that matched the measurements. Other seismologists tested and then accepted Lehmann’s explanation. Lehmann was also the longest-lived woman scientist, having lived for over 104 years.

The discovery of the solid inner core was done through the analysis of P-waves, and was published by her in her 1936 paper P’. What she observed was basically that P-waves didn’t get deflected by the (outer) core, as might be expected, but that it deflected on something else, further in, leading her to believe that there was an inner core inside the core. We now talk of the outer core (which is liquid) and the inner core (which is solid).

Her ideas were widely accepted within a few years, but it wasn’t until computers came around, that they could be demonstrated to be true through computer calculations. This happened in 1971.

Inge Lehmann is largely unknown in Denmark outside seismology and geophysics circles, but she is probably one of the most important scientists to ever come out of the country, which can be witnessed through the fact that the American Geophycical Union (AGU) has named a medal after her, awarded for “outstanding contributions to the understanding of the structure, composition, and dynamics of the Earth’s mantle and core.”

As a side note. When reading up on Lehmann, who I had heard about, but didn’t know too many details about, I noticed that she didn’t finish her study until she was 32, having taken a break for several years, working in an insurance company. I can’t help think about how the current policy of pushing people through their study would have led her to drop out, and thus she would never have had the chance to make her discovery.

It has been awfully quiet around here, hasn’t it?

Sorry for the lack of content, but my offline life has been busy, so I haven’t really gotten around to posting here.

This week I have just moved back to my apartment after having stayed at some friends’ place since early January. This was due to some remodeling of my apartment (a new bathroom was build, and my toilet and my kitchen was pretty much completely replaced).

During March, I did go traveling to Lisbon in Portugal for a couple of weeks. A lovely city, and well worth visiting. There are a few pictures from my trip there on my Instagram. My Instagram account mostly contains pictures from my travels and from events I go to (very few selfies and no pictures of friends as a general rule), so it makes my life seem more glamorous than it probably is.

The technologies of days past and days future

PZ has made a post about a video about Zebrafish development, which originally came out on VHS. He made a throwaway comment “If you don’t know what that is, ask your grandparents”, which got me to think about VHS tapes, and what technologies similar to those, that I have seen the rise and fall of in my lifetime.

Off-hand I can think of:

Video-media

  • Betamax
  • VHS
  • DVD (to some degree)
  • Laserdisk
  • HD-DVD

Audio-media

  • Tape (well, didn’t see the rise, just the fall)
  • Compact Discs/CDs (to some degree)
  • MiniDisk (very limited rise)
  • Digital Compact Cassette/DCC (very limited rise)
  • Digital Audio Tape/DAT (very limited rise)

LPs could probably be included in this list, though I didn’t experience their rise, and the final part of their decline seems to be stretching out.

Storage media

  • 5¼-inch Floppy Disk (well, didn’t see the rise, just the fall)
  • 3½-inch Floppy Disk
  • CD-ROM
  • CD-RW
  • DLT (very limited rise)
  • Zip drive (very limited rise)
  • DVD (as a computer media)
  • DVD-RW

Picture types

  • Slides
  • Polaroids (which has made a comeback)
  • Disposable cameras (their niche was pretty much killed by the cameras in phones)

I could continue, mentioning things like different computer types (C64, Amiga etc.), technologies (cordless phones, anyone?), file formats (remember when BMP was king?) and so on.

These lists indicate how much things have changed since in my lifetime, but they only show part of the picture. What they don’t show is how widespread many technologies have become compared to the past. Yes, I did come across 5¼-inch Floppy Disks, but they were hardly a normal household item, like e.g. USB sticks are these days.

Those of us who were born in the seventies and eighties have experienced some major changes, most notable the world wide web and the mobile phone, which has been incredible game changers, for better and worse. When I graduated high school in 1993, it was hard to imagine how the world would look 25 years later, and a lot of the work avaliable now, couldn’t be imagined back then (and a lot of the secure work back then, has since become redundant).

This is something I think is important to remember.

I think most of us groan when we see yet another article complaining about the Millennials, but it is worth remembering that these are usually written by people who haven’t kept up with the development – usually because they don’t have to, since they are secure in their debt-free houses and jobs. If their jobs suddenly becomes threatened, they are quick to blame others (e.g. Millennials, immigrants, robots), rather than facing the possibility that they have become obsolete, much like the many of the media types I mention above.

So, where am I going with this? Well, basically, I am trying to say that it is fun to try to look back and see what you have experienced, and what has changed in your lifetime, but I think it is more important to look forward, and try to keep up, and develop, along side with the technology. The type setters became obsolete, because their function were taken over by the computers – this was not something that was generally considered a possibility, until it suddenly happened (the speed was helped along by the behavior of the type setters, who by all accords were quite difficult to work with for everyone else).

In other words, it might be worth looking around at the technology you are dependent on today, and try to figure out what alternatives there are in the future, and see if you can start preparing for either the change (e.g. reading up on the new technology), or for moving elsewhere in your career (get qualifications needed for new positions). It is not easy, but unfortunately, most of us are not in positions where we have much of a choice.

Upcoming Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub schedule

Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub has its schedule in place for the next few months, so I thought I’d share it here.

All the talks are in Danish, and takes place at Café Nutid. Cafe Nutid is usually closed on Mondays, so they opens up about half an hour before the talk starts.

March 13, 19:30 – Eftertro – hvad sker der, når man forlader sin religion?

Denne aften adskiller sig lidt fra tidligere arrangementer. Vi får besøg af to oplægsholdere, der vil præsentere sig selv og netværket Eftertro, der tilbyder rådgivning for mennesker, der har forladt deres religion. Denne aften bliver vi klogere på, hvordan det opleves at vende ryggen til noget så centralt som ens grundlæggende verdensopfattelse, hvad man mister, og hvordan man kommer videre.

Vi får besøg af to repræsentanter: Maria Brock er tidligere mormon og har været muslimsk gift, og Simon Ørregaard er tidligere Jehovas Vidne.

April 10, 19:30 – Hanne Strager: Darwin – et beskedent geni

Hanne Strager vil komme og snakke om Darwin.

May 8, 19:30 – Jesper Vind: Moral blandt andre dyr

Moral blandt mennesker har været diskuteret i tusindvis af år blandt filosoffer. Men er det kun mennesket, som kan udføre moralske handlinger? Hør om hvorledes moral kan defineres naturvidenskabeligt, samt hvordan man kan tolke andre dyrs bevidste handlinger, som moralske. Der bliver masser at diskutere.

Jesper Vind er biolog og ph.d. i molekylærbiologi.

June 12, 19:30 –Søren Brostrøm: Sundhedsdirektøren kigger i krystalkuglen

Sundhedsområdet optager alle og er altid at finde på en top 3 over de vigtigste politikområder for danskerne. Sundhedsvæsenet er i voldsom forandring med centralisering og store supersygehuse, robotteknologi, dyre lægemidler osv., men følger udviklingen med i det nære sundhedsvæsen udenfor sygehusene? Kan sundhedspersonalet følge med i de stigende forventninger til både faglighed og produktivitet? Og hvorfor skal vi være bekymret for det postfaktuelle på sundhedsområdet? Kom og hør med når topchefen for den øverste sundhedsfaglige myndighed kigger i krystalkuglen. Det bliver ikke kedeligt!

Søren Brostrøm er direktør for Sundhedsstyrelsen. Han er 51 år, speciallæge i gynækologi og obstetrik, og var indtil han i 2011 blev ansat i Sundhedsstyrelsen overlæge på Herlev Hospital og lektor ved Københavns Universitet.

We are working on the schedule for the rest of the year, so keep an eye on the facebook page.

Advice to government employees

Cross-posted at the Resistance blog

Slate has a article by Ian Samuel, explaining the legal situation for government employees. Samuel is a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School and a former law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia. The whole article is worth reading, but the last two paragraphs are the most important ones

Of course, asserting your legal rights and standing up to the government you work for aren’t always easy and come with substantial risks. (For one thing, a court might end up agreeing with the Trump administration that its orders were perfectly lawful.) The wise civil servant who was ready to refuse a Trump executive order would do well to talk with a lawyer beforehand. That’s why I’ve offered to represent, pro bono, any government official who refuses to execute a Trump order on the grounds that the order is illegal. A huge number of other lawyers—in particular, professors Daniel Epps (of Washington University in St. Louis) and Leah Litman (of the University of California–Irvine)—have offered their services as well, as have countless other lawyers, paralegals, law students, legal secretaries, and even (my favorite) a bartender in Cleveland.

No government program or White House command is self-executing. It takes thousands and thousands of people, distributed throughout the country, to transform an illegal order into an injustice. These loyal civil servants were there before President Trump arrived and they will mostly be there when he’s gone. Are you one of them? If so: The American system provides you with a choice. You can insist that you were just following orders. Or you can follow the law.

So, if you are a government employee who think that you have gotten an illegal order, there are resources available for you to draw upon. Please use them.

Please donate to “Defense against Carrier SLAPP Suit” GoFundMe

It is not a secret that Richard Carrier has sued this blog network, the Orbit, Skepticon, and several individuals for libel. While most people consider the lawsuit completely groundless, it still requires some legal work to get the case dismissed, and this, unfortunately, costs money.

As the GoFundMe states:

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting  on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties both critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. All the defendants are represented by the same attorney, First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. Randazza is providing his services at a significant discount, but we are not asking him to work for free. Plus, there are thousands of dollars in “costs” for the case that don’t include legal bills, and there is no way to discount those. In order to continue fighting this lawsuit, we, the defendants of this case, have put together this campaign to raise money to defray our costs, some of which is outstanding.

If you have some money to spare, please help fight this suit.