Déjà vu – sacked science columnist years ago warned of the need for draconian pandemic precautions

US President Donald Trump was widely mocked on social media after he referred to the coronavirus as a “germ that has gotten so brilliant” it’s even outsmarting antibiotics.

Trump was blissfully unaware that antibiotics are useless against a virus.  They are used to treat bacterial, not viral, infections

This is not to deny the coronavirus is a clever wee rascal.  It delayed manifesting itself until the US had a President it could outsmart.

But scientists have been expecting another virulent epidemic for years.

Long before being unceremoniously dumped and replaced as the Dominion-Post’s science column writer, Bob Brockie warned that another pandemic was not a matter of if but when. Continue reading “Déjà vu – sacked science columnist years ago warned of the need for draconian pandemic precautions”

Climate change is scary enough – but in the capital it looks like the danger will come from a sea god

Oh, the lengths local government councillors will go to in their efforts to avoid causing cultural offence.

When a spat broke out among Wellington City Councillors over the appropriateness of mentioning a Māori god in a document on the city’s climate change plan, some ducked for cover.

Perhaps they recall the  row that erupted – and the accusations of racism that flew – when scientist Bob Brockie questioned the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and the incorporation of Maori spiritual beliefs in this country’s scientific endeavours.

Wellington’s mayor is relaxed about the merging of the scientific with the mythical and defended the notion that his city’s central business district might be reclaimed not by a rising ocean (something which scientists can measure) but by Tangaroa, the Maori god of the sea (good luck to the scientists and anyone else keen to spot him or her in whatever transpires as temperatures rise). Continue reading “Climate change is scary enough – but in the capital it looks like the danger will come from a sea god”

New charter aims to culturalise scientists – will dissidents be starved of funding?

Several questions are raised by the development of a “charter” to set out the principles to guide “sound research” practice in New Zealand.

The Royal Society has announced the formation of a working group to develop the charter with support from research funding agencies, bodies representing different types of research organisations and the Royal Society.

Dr John Hay, appointed independent chair of the working group, says the task is to develop the proposed charter within 12-18 months.

One aim of the charter “is to provide clarity to all researchers and research organisations on expectations for sound research practice”.

The charter will foster “a culture of collective responsibility” for maintaining good research practice, set out what sufficient compliance looks like and support cohesive research teams working across many research organisations.

Continue reading “New charter aims to culturalise scientists – will dissidents be starved of funding?”

Dr Brockie takes up the cudgels for GM as Federated Farmers strategically withdraw

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But the question is: can we eat it?

Federated Farmers issued no press release – at least, none we can find – to confirm it has withdrawn legal challenges against local authorities over the regulation of genetically modified organisms (or GMOs).

News of the decision was reported by the Sunday Star-Times: national president Katie Milne confirmed to the newspaper that the feds had pulled out of all cases they were challenging, but would “just keep assessing it” in the future.

Whether this should halt public debate of the issue – and to what extent the scientists should be constrained – is a good question.

Yes, there other more immediate issues to occupy Federated Farmers’ resources – Mycoplasma bovis and compensation for farmers whose stock is being slaughtered to halt its spread, for example.

But Fairfax science writer Bob Brockie today is calling for the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, to do for GE what he did for P and clear up the myths.

Continue reading “Dr Brockie takes up the cudgels for GM as Federated Farmers strategically withdraw”