The inertia of science

Some of the greatest scientific advances have been made by maverick scientists; people who go off on tangents despite widely accepted existing paradigms. A paradigm is essentially an accepted framework that directs research to advance by an accumulation of solutions to problems. According to Thomas Kuhn, normal science operates within this framework. From time to time, a revolution may occur, which shifts the paradigm to create a more or less different framework. In other words,…

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Times have changed: dealing with dodgy science in the internet age

Important discussion on how to prevent ‘dodgy’ science. Ecology is not a dirty word Dodgy science, dodgy scientists and dodgy humans are not a new thing. And dodgy scientific papers have been published since the dawn of scientific publishing. In 1667 an article on ‘snakestones’, a pseudoscience medical cure with absolutely no basis in truth, appeared in one of the first issues of the oldest known scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (now…

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Harewood Plains – Nanaimo’s flowering jewel!

It has been a while since I wrote a blog. The splendour of Harewood Plains in bloom has provided the inspiration to get one done. I hope you enjoy it! In late April through May, Harewood Plains in Nanaimo puts on a magical show with a bounty of flowering plants. This area, which stretches along the southwest of the southern portion of Nanaimo Parkway, from just uphill from Cranberry Road overpass to Harewood Mines Road…

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The long, burning hot summer: The new normal?

During one week this past summer, I was largely confined inside my home due to extremely poor air quality. The air had been hazy with fine particulate matter from hundreds of forest fires burning throughout British Columbia, including one only 10 km from my home in Nanaimo, BC. The summer weather has been hot and dry, turning our forests into a giant tinderbox, poised to catch fire from the most unlikely sources. The influence of…

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How do you get the most out of a conference (while still enjoying it)?

A few weeks ago I attended the joint annual meeting (JAM) of three Entomological Societies: British Columbia, Canada, and America. I was able to attend because it didn’t require any major travel, and I also was able to keep other costs to a minimum.Socializing is an important part of conferences. This gathering was after a IUFRO meeting in Italy, which followed the 1996 World Congress (which I did not attend). From left to right are…

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Living in Paradise

It is human nature to take our environment for granted. Once in a while we get a reminder of how privileged we are living where we do, particularly if we enjoy being out in forest and field. That is certainly the case living on Vancouver Island. We enjoy a benign climate and we are surrounded by a diversity of organisms that is unparalleled in the temperate regions of the world. Lately I have certainly been…

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Life in space – An earthling biologist’s perspective.

The other day I was listening to a CBC Summer Edition discussion about space exploration, and specifically putting human beings on Mars. The discussion centred on the risk of contaminating Mars with organisms from earth, but also the risk of introducing martian organisms to earth. There was also some discussion of the “Are we alone” question. Mars Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO Based on fairly recent estimates, there are perhaps 300 billion stars in our…

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