It's not enough to bash in heads, you have to bash in minds

Author Archives: Dan Moutal

Harper Conservatives: The anti-data party

Death of Evidence

If we are going to survive this century, we need to move away from decision-based evidence-making and truly make evidence-based decisions. Public access to publicly funded science would help ensure that the government relies on the facts, not on ideology. Science is too important to democracy to be kept in a government vault. -Elizabeth May

In this election, the most important issue facing Canada is not the economy, it isn’t deficits, and it is not conservative vs progressive values.

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And when I think about it, a lot of “things I want to do” are just learning about and discussing new tools for tinkering with the chain. —via XKCD

Bah Humbug!

Physicists who want to protect traditional Christmas realize that the only way to keep from changing Christmas is not to observe it.

(via xkcd)

That is all.

Dancing Booby

A Dancing Blue-footed Booby showing off his stunning blue feet
A Dancing Blue-footed Booby showing off his stunning blue feet

At Seymour Norte island in the Galapagos Islands

Curious Sea Lions

This curious sea lion was very interested in the little blue box (camera) I was holding
This curious sea lion was very interested in the little blue box (camera) I was holding

Our last full day in the Galapagos ended with a swim with 4 curious young sea lions. It was all fun and games until the beachmaster showed up.

A new normal


Unsurprisingly XKCD nails it, but head on over there to read the mouseover text, I am sure it perfectly describes more than a few Planet3.0 readers (and writers!). And we wouldn’t want it any other way.

1000 ways to die in Ecuador

Way #256: Becoming Arapaima food
These carnivorous arapaima were 2.5 meters long and very hungry

Thankfully they don’t have any teeth so all their food has to fit down their throats, so we were relatively safe.

Way #512: This

No one in their right mind would ever get on a rickety rope swing 70 meters up, but you aren’t in your right mind. Or at least I wasn’t.

Bonus way to die: White water canoeing in a dugout canoe
Everything is going as well as can be expected until you slam into some rocks.

Silence of the labs

The CBC’s Fifth estate devotes 1 hour to exploring the sorry state of federal science in Canada.

The link above takes you to CBC’s official page which might not work for some people outside of Canada, but thankfully someone has posted it to YouTube.

Only briefly touched upon at the end of the Silence of the Labs program is the closure and destruction of several science libraries across the country containing irreplaceable data going back as much as 100 years. These closures were sold to the public saying that any material destroyed or sold would first be digitized and thus be made more widely available (a great idea) but only a tiny fraction of materials were ever digitized so lots of irreplaceable and potentially vital information was lost forever.

Scientists say the closure of some of the world’s finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.

Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Quebec ended up in dumpsters while others such as Winnipeg’s historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants. Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.

Furthermore, the government is falsely claiming that vital content is being retained by extensively digitizing material from nine regional libraries that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) whittled down to two.

“The Department has claimed that all useful information from the closed libraries is available in digital form. This is simply not true. Much of the material is lost forever,” reports one DFO scientist who requested not to be named.

That picture of a taxpayer-funded treasure trove of information laid waste emerges from interviews by The Tyee with half a dozen prominent scientists, many of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear that their funding or other government support could be hurt if their names were connected with the concerns they were eager to share.

In fact if a secret government document is to be believed then digitizing materials form these libraries was never the point.

A federal document marked “secret” obtained by Postmedia News indicates the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries has little if anything to do with digitizing books as claimed by the Harper government.

In fact, the document, a compendium of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans… mentions only the “culling of materials” as the “main activities” involved as the science libraries are reduced from nine to two. Specifically, it details “culling materials in the closed libraries or shipping them to the two locations and culling materials in the two locations to make room for collections from closed libraries.”

Uncertainty is a common reason stated for a lack of meaningful action on climate change. The large scale destruction of data like this helps ensure that the future remains uncertain.