Thursday, September 29, 2005

Giant Squid - check it out

Hurrah! We have done it again! Gone deep into the ocean, tortured an animal in its own habitat, and come out triumphant with photographs. Normally we do it to things we are familiar with - you know, things that are good to eat or pretty to look at - but now we've managed the feat with something we hardly believed existed. Congratulations Tsunemi Kubodera and Kyoichi Mori. You have managed to make a giant squid cut off its own arms so that we could see hazy pictures of an animal that few people had imagined, and fewer still are concerned about.

"I think it's wonderful that we've finally got a picture of a living giant squid," said Richard Ellis, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History [as reported by National Geographic]. Oh yes, wonderful indeed. What a moving performance to see a living thing impaled on the hook. How thrilling to see it struggling to break free. And what a marvellous ending to see leave behind two of its tentacles - bleeding, cut off, and oh so helpful for our scientific deductions.

The find has already put light on the big question that has puzzled scientists for years, which is: are these creatures active or lazy? Yes, this is the big discovery that we have come up with - read this news report. As you will find out: "The efforts the squid went to untangle itself [from the baited fishing line] also shows they are capable of quite strong and rapid movement." Ah the enlightenment.

Now I have no quarrel with science, nor do I have a problem with the money spent on it. But I DO mind if we go about things in an avoidably inhuman way. You got to click snaps - feel free. But is it so necessary to send down a bait with hooks for that purpose? Especially when you DO have specimens of the dead variery that were washed up ashore? You want to eat meat - sure - but is it necessary to torture and kill whatever it is that you want to eat? And if pharma companies must test medicines on rats - all right - but for goodness sake can't they follow guidelines and use anasthesia?

Science is not a good enough reason to torture. Nothing is.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I want to be a scientist... again

and I guess Bill Bryson's latest book must be infecting quite a few others too with the same result.

'A short history of nearly everything' is different from most other history and science books in a very fundamental way - the passion shows - a passion that is not limited to just the theories and the logic, but also to the scientists, thinkers, philosophers, cheaters, braggers, and other varieties of people that have populated the subject. Bryson knows all those dead and alive comfortably on a first name basis, and revers all elements that build our universe with an overwhelming wonder. So if up till now you weren't exactly impressed by the atom, things are in for a mojor overhaul by the time he's done with you.

How Bryson managed to amass the knowledge that he has, in just a couple of years, is quite simply, baffling. He found out what the Earth weighs, and when it was figured out what it weighs, and how it was figured out incorrectly at first, and then correctly, and who were doing all this figuring out, and why. And then he does the same with the Earth's age. And then ditto for the galaxy. And then for the atom. And this, of course, is just the beginning of his obsessive inquisitivesness about the world.

Read Bryson for a fresh take on the world and its majesty. Or to enjoy his lilted writing style. Or the hilarious quotations sprinkled all over. There's a reason for everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Boo Yahoo!

"To be doing business in China or anywhere else in the world we have to comply with local law."

And that's all that Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang has to say on the subject of becoming an informant of the Chinese government. That his actions support human right violations, and led to a 10-year improsonment term for a journalist is not something he is much bothered about. So long as he is acting 'legally', he is not worried about being right or ethical. The blindfolding, after all, ought to serve him well in making riches from the Chinese market.

Which leads me to the rhetorical question that a letter to the editor in the South China Morning Post asked recently: would Yahoo have been as willing an informant on Jews in the Germany of 1930s has it existed then?

Well, if IBM didn't have a problem under those circumstances, I can wager Yahoo would have no qualms either. After all, as they seem to think, what are a million lives or so against millions of dollars?

Laws and Governments are NOT valid excuses for despicable actions. And if Yahoo does not have the guts to defy the Chinese government, or finds itself too feeble to take a moral stand, it should not be doing be doing business there in the first place.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Watery Vengeance

sourced from:

The last twelve months have been a procession of mass murders. Beginning with the Tsunami that drowned out whole cities with lashing waves, waters have swept into region after region - China, Europe, India, and now, United States. They're pouring and flooding with an uncanny regularity, claiming more lives, more land, more pain.

Till now, each time they struck hard, what came out stronger was the spirit of the people who donated money, materials, manpower, support and anything else they thought would help. At least, that was the case till the latest blow came from Katrina.

The images from a submerged New Orleans show only despair and horror - there seems to be little to soften the blow: relief too slow to give hope, gangs too rampant to allow peace, police force too feeble to give strength. The apathy of those in positions of power, who can make a difference, is unbelievable - far from responding with compassion, they have failed even in their duty.

It's the Titanic all over again - each man for himself - unless of course, you happen to be a first class citizen, in which case you row out in a lifeboat or leave town in a car, while others wait for a backup plan that simply doesn't exist.

Welcome to the Government of Today, which has forgotten why it had the right to collect taxes. They are not paid for the rich to become richer. Nor for increasing the bottomlines of corporates. Not even for the GDP to get higher. Economy, important though it is, is simply a means to an ends called humanity. It is not a proxy for the people, but a support system. And if a nation cannot even try to improve its people's lot, it has no business pompoming its riches.

Had it made any effort in the Katrina catastrophe, we would not be reading of patients killed in hospitals for lack of evacuation plans, of women raped in a stadium as they waited for food and water for days, of Red Cross being requested to keep away from places where people were dying (It was too dangerous to go to, apparently, even though the storm was over). If the US adminitration's own conscience cannot move it to help out, let's hope that at least public outrage will.