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Design Language Works in Biology

first_imgThere are many ways to explain design in nature without having to get religious about it.If “evolutionary” is a useless word in science (5 Dec 2019), then what should biologists replace it with? How about design language?Actually, that is already happening frequently in science reporting. The whole field of biomimetics uses the language of engineering, and speaks of “design principles” in biological traits. Cell biologists speak of “molecular machines” freely. Many writers don’t even use the e-word evolution at all. So if scientists are hesitant about infusing theology into science, no worries. Just take the useless Darwinism out of it, and let the facts speak for themselves.It’s even possible to wax eloquent about design in science writing. When biologists are accustomed to speaking in specialized jargon among themselves, appropriate metaphors about esoteric processes can aid understanding for lay readers. A prime example showed up in a press release from North Carolina State University about the stem cells in roots. Mick Kulikowski titled his article, “‘Conductor’ Gene Found in Plant Root Stem Cell ‘Orchestra’.” The question before researchers was, how do stem cells in the roots know when to differentiate, and what to become? They found a highly choreographed process.Like an orchestra with its various component instruments working together to create beautiful music, plant root stem cells work within various networks to perform various functions. TCX2 ensures that these local networks communicate with each other, similar to an orchestra conductor making sure that horns, for example, don’t drown out the violins.The interdisciplinary research included molecular biology experiments in Arabadopsis thaliana, or mustard weed, as well as mathematical modeling and machine learning approaches to narrow down some 3,000 candidate genes to learn about the causal relationships between different root stem cell networks.Science should deal in causal relationships. Causation implies law-like behavior, as opposed to the Stuff Happens Law. It is perfectly appropriate when conveying esoteric processes, therefore, to describe them in terms of other relationships readers understand. Analogies are useful teaching tools, the Baloney Detector explains:Analogies, humor, visualization, quotations by authorities, and statistics, for instance, are valid parts of rhetoric (persuasive speech), and can be legitimate and helpful teaching aids. These only err as fallacies or become propagandistic to the extent they dodge the issue, obscure the truth, mislead or take the lazy way out of a debate.What would be propagandistic in the press release above would be to mislead readers into thinking that this highly coordinated system evolved by chance, or just “happened” without foresight or plan: for instance, drawing an analogy between root stem cell behavior and a dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop. People can visualize a conductor shushing the horns and encouraging the violins. If stem cells are managing expression of parts in a complex performance, the orchestra analogy fits. Other analogies can help as well:To validate the network prediction and mathematical modeling, the researchers took an experimental approach. They both overexpressed and knocked out the TCX2 gene and found that the timing of plant root stem cell division suffered. Sozzani and Natalie Clark, the paper’s first author and a former NC State biomathematics graduate student, likened this to the principle behind the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears – the porridge was acceptable only when its temperature was “just right.”The word “design” itself should not be avoided in scientific writing over worries about religion, creationism, or the Intelligent Design Movement. Scientists design experiments; they know all about planned investigations that require foresight and planning. If they see animals or plants or cells acting in ways that look designed, so be it. Say so.Readers are free to make philosophical or theological inferences on their own, without scientists having to nudge them away from common sense to suppose that orchestras could have emerged by chance.(Visited 96 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

African film takes centre stage at Fespaco

first_imgFlags of African nations fly during theFespaco film festival’s opening ceremony. Showcasing the small West Africancountry’s finest talent, the ceremony sawmusicians, colourful dancers and giantpuppets creating a magnificent spectacleof African performance that had theaudience on its feet. A libation ceremony to honour the life oflegendary African filmmaker OusmaneSembène was held at the Place deCineastes, a monument in Ouagadougou. The Place de Cineastes.(Images: Khanyi Magubane)Khanyi MagubanePomp and ceremony was the order of the day as the 21st edition of the Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou – officially the Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision de Ouagadougou (Fespaco) – opened in the small city of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, on 28 February.Launched in 1969 and held every two years, Fespaco is regarded as the most prestigious gathering of African filmmakers both in Africa and the diaspora. The festival kicked off with an opening ceremony attended by some 45 000 people in Burkina Faso’s national stadium, the Stade du 4-Août.Showcasing the small West African country’s finest talent, the ceremony saw musicians, colourful dancers and giant puppets creating a magnificent spectacle of African performance that had the audience on its feet. And the buzz wasn’t only in the stadium.Outside, the city of Ouagadougou came alive as the festival attracts hundreds of vendors selling local cuisine, festival memorabilia, bottled cold water (temperatures average 40º during the day) and artefacts for tourists visiting the country to attend the week-long event.As most Burkinabe’s use motorbikes and scooters to speed through the densely populated city, the parking lot could have easily been mistaken as a motorbike show with thousands of cycles parked in a designated area.After the formal and entertainment programme, the sky exploded into a kaleidoscope of colour in a grand fireworks display, sending the locals into a frenzy of dancing and cheering.Later that evening the stadium festivities were followed by a gala dinner at Ouagadougou’s Hotel Independence, to celebrate 40 years of Fespaco.The dinner was sponsored by the South African delegation, which was led by Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan. The delegation included representatives from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), headed by its CEO Eddie Mbalo.Honouring Ousmane SembèneThe following day a libation ceremony to honour the life of legendary African filmmaker Ousmane Sembène was held at the Place de Cineastes, a monument in the city. The ritual involved delegates holding hands to circle the monument, after which a statue of Sembène was unveiled and the renamed Ousmane Sembène Street launched.Sembène was a Senegalese film director, producer and writer, often called the “father of African film”, and described by the Los Angeles Times as one of Africa’s greatest authors. From the early 1960s until his death in 2007, he worked to help lay the foundations for the development of Africa’s film industry.After launching a successful career as a novelist – he authored the classic God’s Bits of Wood – Sembène realised that his written work would only reach the privileged elite. So in 1963, at the age of 40, he turned to film to reach wider African audiences.In 1966 he produced his first feature film, La Noire de…, the first feature ever released by a sub-Saharan African director, which went on to win the French Prix Jean Vigo.His final film, the 2004 feature Moolaadé, which explores the controversial subject of female genital mutilation, won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and at Fespaco.Sembène was also a founding member and first secretary-general of the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (Fepaci), the continental body which launched Fespaco in 1969, and was its first secretary-general.The federation brings together African filmmakers, helping them network and keep abreast with activities within the industry across Africa and the diaspora. South Africa currently hosts the regional headquarters of Fepaci in Johannesburg.Under the leadership of South African filmmaker Seipati Bolane-Hopa, the organisation has been tasked with facilitating events that bring awareness about the film industry as a whole on the continent and in the South African region, working with the SABC, DAC and NFVF.Cinema de AfriqueDuring the 2009 Fespaco, 129 films from 74 countries will be in competition this year, with South Africa’s contribution including feature films, documentaries and television series.The features include veteran actor John Kani’s screen adaptation of his flagship theatre production Nothing but the Truth, and the gangster movie Jerusalema by producer Tendeka Matatu.Award-winning filmmaker Zola Maseko, whose film Drum won the prestigious Etalon de Yenenga for the best film at the 2007 Fespaco, will be showing his new work, The Manuscripts of Timbuktu. The television series Gugu no Andile will also be shown.Special highlights of the festival include the first congress of the Federation of African Film Critics, which is involved in the training of film journalists and critics on African film.For those interested in the business of buying and selling films, an exhibition at the MICA film market will be running throughout the festival, where stands by production companies, other film festivals and stakeholders can exhibit their products.Useful linksFespaco Fepaci South African Broadcasting Corporation Department of Arts and Culture National Film and Video Foundationlast_img read more

Raise your hand for Ohio 4-H!

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Matt ReeseAlbert Belmont Graham, known as the founder of 4-H, was born March 13, 1868  and went on to help change the lives of countless young people by starting the now internationally known program in Clark County near Springfield. As the home of 4-H, Ohio has been well represented during the previous years of the National 4-H Raise Your Hand Campaign, winning both years.Through its “Raise Your Hand” campaign, National 4-H wants members, advisors and alumni to sign up for their state. The state with the most weighted votes by May 15 will bring home $20,000 to use towards 4-H programming.I remember watching in awe as something I built as a nine-year-old launched into the heavens. One of my first 4-H projects was rocketry and I still remember the euphoria as I gazed skyward at my rocket soaring over the Hancock County corn fields. That project was by no means the most influential part of 4-H for me, but a fond early memory from the program that was a part of my life for many years.I signed up this week to add to Ohio’s total and hopefully all of you former Buckeye 4-Hers will do the same. It doesn’t take long. My many 4-H projects, including photography, creative writing, various livestock projects, tree planting knot-tying, and rocketry helped to teach me skills that I use regularly, if not daily, in my current profession. (OK, so not really rocketry). The organization provided not only those skills, but also helped me to develop leadership and social skills that have helped to make me who I am today. And, this year is the first year for my 9-year-old son in 4-H. Any guesses as to one of the projects he’s taking to blast off his 4-H career?Click here to Raise Your Hand for Ohio 4-H.last_img read more

I Worked on the AOL Content Farm & It Changed My Life

first_imgFive years ago this week I began writing for AOL’s blog network Weblogs Inc. I wrote 5 technology news stories each day and was paid a mere $5 per article. It was grueling, that was just one of 3 jobs I had at the time – and it was great.AOL’s secret internal plan to ramp up its online content business was leaked today to New York business blog Business Insider and people are saying it’s got “content farm” written all over it. In-house writers are expected to write 5 to 10 blog posts per day and those stories are expected to go from an average of 1500 pageviews per post today to an amazing 7000 views per post in the future. How will stories be selected? The only thing that will matter, apparently, is search engine friendliness and monetization potential. That might sound terrible to outsiders, but having been there I want to say: Good luck AOL, I hope that strategy works wonderfully for you. I genuinely do.The 58 page document titled The AOL Way: Content, Product, Media Engineering, and Revenue Management is worth a read to anyone in the media business, but the hardest pill to swallow is the relationship between quantity, quality and money.David Carr at the New York Times tweets: “Must Read, Must Not Emulate: Fascinating Look Inside the Word Gulag at AOL.” Tech journalist Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols says, “AOL expects its staff writers to write 5 to 10 stories per day! Yeah. Right. That’s going to happen.” Social media analyst Jessica Well says, “Yeah… quantity over quality… that’s the spirit, AOL! :/”I’m sure the writers filling those quotas are paid more than the $5 per post that I got paid 5 years ago. When I took the position the pay had just gone up from $4 per post!At that time I was also writing 6 posts per day about international currency speculation, as a subcontractor for a CMS company. And doing 3 to 5 interviews per week with a nonprofit technology organization. I was producing roughly 10 to 12 posts per day. Having landed those three gigs, I quit my minimum wage job at a convenience store in my home town. (Thanks, AOL content farm!)Were those posts any good? They were good enough that when tech blog top story aggregator Techmeme launched, I had 8 headlines there in 8 weeks. Then one day Michael Arrington called and hired me at TechCrunch. “You keep beating us to stories,” he told me. I was able to do that because I was getting RSS feeds from key vendors in our market delivered by IM and SMS. That’s standard practice among tech bloggers now, but at the time no one else was doing it, so I was able to cover lots of news first. The fact that I was able to do it under the AOL banner, for any pay at all, was a great platform for me.Right: Barb Dybwad, then at AOL, took this picture of me showing her a blog I was working on for a local natural foods store when we met at the first tech industry event I attended, an unconference called Tag Camp. A few months later, Barb hired me to write for AOL. Today she’s at a site called Tecca. Thanks, Barb!Now I’m the co-editor of ReadWriteWeb and I’m happy to report that things are very different for me. Here at ReadWriteWeb we pay our writers far better, but we do ask full timers to write 5 posts each day. We ask them to write smart, informed, quality posts. Preferably before anyone else does. It’s very hard, but very enjoyable work.You know what, though? We’ve got a full time news spot open right now and I’m having a hard time filling it. I think of AOL, big as it is, as a farm team in the minor leagues. I made a splash in the minors and then got called up to the major leagues. Where are the minor leagues now, though? Where are the tech bloggers who have toiled for too little pay, pumped out large quantities of content and proven themselves to have potential to work on a different level?I don’t know where those sites are anymore. If they appear again, though, I’m guessing they’ll look like content farms. The executives behind such outfits, publishing on mass scale, are inevitably going to treat writers and readers like worthless pawns in a chess game worth billions of dollars. It would be a mistake to expect them to do anything else.But some of those people will demonstrate that they aren’t just pawns, that they are writers, journalists and power-bloggers.Big league bloggers and writers these days need to be able to write well, in large quantity and quickly. It’s not easy, but who said writing for a living, in an era when anyone can publish with ease, was going to be easy?So AOL, go build a giant content farm for mainstream readers. I’m sure some of the content will be worth reading, and though management’s priorities are SEO and monetization, I’m sure many of the writers will sneak in some gems. While you’ve got them, give them a trial by fire, too. Then send them our way. Or don’t – if they are capable of stepping up to the plate and hitting homeruns – hopefully we’ll find them before our competitors do. Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai…center_img Tags:#Analysis#AOL#web Related Posts marshall kirkpatricklast_img read more

Wimbledon: Kevin Anderson says he’s facing fitness battle ahead of final

first_imgKevin Anderson has contested back-to-back five-set battles en route his first ever Wimbeldon final. Anderson beat USA’s John Isner to reach the Wimbledon singles final on Saturday in what was the longest semi-final in the history of the tournament.It took eighth seed Anderson six hours and 35 minutes to get past ninth seed Isner 7-6(8), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24 at the Centre Court of All England Club. In the quarter-finals, the South African came from two set down to beat the 2017 champion Roger Federer in five sets which lasted 4 hours and 13 minutes.As if surviving a marathon was not enough punishment for his body, Anderson is now hoping his “sore” and “swollen” feet, and “jelly-like” legs will be able to withstand one final test in Sunday’s men’s final at Wimbledon.How he does that after contesting the longest ever Grand Slam semi-final is anyone’s guess.”He’s got a tough task ahead of him,” summed up John Isner on Friday after the American came off second best in a war of attrition.And Isner should know.Eight years ago, he was enshrined in Wimbledon folklore for winning the “endless match” — an 11 hour, five minute humdinger against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut that Isner edged 70-68 in the decider.With that three-day epic being just a first round contest, when Isner returned for his next match, he folded very, very quickly — in just 75 minutes and without an ace in sight.Anderson will be hoping that is not the fate that awaits him on Sunday when he faces one of the fittest athletes in sport in the shape of either Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic — who between them own 29 Grand Slam titles.advertisement”I’ve never played a match this long, so I have to recover as much as I can for the final now,” the 32-year-old Anderson told reporters.”I’d like to have been done a little bit earlier in terms of my recovery, playing against two of the greatest players of all time.”I need a lot of treatment in terms of getting the body back balanced and stuff, but at the same time obviously sleep is important, too.”Obviously it’s not going to be easy.”NADAL-DJOKOVIC DELAYEDThat recovery process started as soon as he came off Centre Court at 7:46 p.m. on Friday.”I actually went straight into the ice tank, then I did the stretching. I actually ate before stretching, as well,” he said.”Obviously trying to get sort of food and nutrition back in my body is a challenge because you definitely don’t feel like eating, but you have to somehow force it down.”The only silver lining for Anderson, if it can be called that, is that the length of his match had a knock-on effect on the Nadal-Djokovic semi-final.After being kept waiting until past 8 p.m. to start their semi-final, the duo ran out of time to finish it before the 11 p.m. curfew and will have to return on Saturday to complete the match with Djokovic leading by two sets to one.Anderson will be keeping his fingers and toes crossed that the 52nd meeting of their career turns into another exhausting epic to match some of their previous blockbusters.”Watching these guys, they’re moving like gazelles out there,” a worn out Isner added.”Whoever wins this (second) match you would think, because of how much time Kevin spent on court, will be the prohibitive favourite.”If Kevin can serve like that, serve a high percentage like he did, he could have his shot, for sure. He’ll do everything possible to get ready for Sunday.”Whether that will be enough is anyone’s guess.(With inputs from Reuters)last_img read more