This blog is currently on hiatus owing to work commitments. Whilst I still keep an eye on the goings on at RiAus, and contribute to the work of the good folks at eLife, little will be added to this blog for the foreseeable future. Simon Says remains open for business, albeit at a reduced capacity. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope the archive of content found here will prove to be of interest.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Male, female, other, other, other, other, other

THERE are many things in life that are difficult to get your head around. I imagine many, like myself, struggle to understand much of theoretical physics, with up to 11 dimensions required to explain its more complex models. Three dimensions are easy, for they are what we see all around us, and with the help of analogies a fourth dimension is not too much harder. But beyond that things get tricky.

Here’s another concept that is difficult to get your head around: the single-celled organism Tetrahymena thermophila has not two distinct genders — our male and female — but SEVEN.

Tetrahymena thermophila

So let's talk about sex.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

9/11: Love your neighbour as yourself

SUNDAY is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. I'm certain that you will have caught at least one mention of this anniversary from the news, TV, radio or online. For many this will be an occasion of great sadness, and to them I offer my condolences. I was too young to really appreciate what happened that day, and certainly too young to understand how the world changed, and how it reacted, as a result. The images were shown so much that, in addition to my lack of understanding of the situation, they almost became normal. But they truly are horrific - in searching for a suitable image for this post I found a photo set I really rather wish I hadn't. The images weren't graphic or gratuitous, just frank and disturbing in their honest representation of events unfolding.

Understandably the anniversary has prompted a mix of responses, from honour and praise to the emergency services and survivors to anger at the perpetrators from some, anger at the US government from others; references to the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad taking sides one way or another as to whether it was right; conspiracy theories; and, crucially, important and difficult questions about justice, humanity and prejudice. To this final debate I offer the stories of two people. I simply feel that the challenges these two stories present ought to be shared.