Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Don't Ban Suarez!

So Luis Suarez has been biting again.  A 7-match ban for a nibbling Bakkal in 2010, a 10-match ban for nipping Ivanovic in 2013, and now he does it to Chiellini in the World Cup.

And everyone is screaming to lock him up and throw away the key.
Take the English pundits.

Robbie Savage claims "He should never play international football again."
Alan Shearer says "Three bites and you're out. They should absolutely hammer him".
Danny Mills: "It has to be the longest ban in football, ever".

No, gentlemen! No! Why?

Biting is childish and, indeed disgusting. But the physical injury caused was minor - just a few toothmarks. Compare that to players head butting the referee, as did one of my team mates in Knoxville last year, deliberately trying to breaking legs, such as Roy Keane against Alf Inge Haaland in April 2001, or the sickening forearm smash of Ben Thatcher that knocked out Pedro Mendes in 2006. In 2010 an English Sunday League player was jailed for 6 months for a horrific tackle, shattering an opponent's leg in two places and ending his playing career. Those are acts of extreme violence, and players try to perpetrate them in nearly every professional match. Put yourself in the victim's shoes, Mr. Shearer: of which indiscretion would you prefer to be on the receiving end?   Suarez's regressive behavior offends us culturally. But the punishment will not be  objective, I'm afraid.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Insane Science

So I was on a team judging some insane science last week. Here's what these crazy nut cases  did.

First, they built a two-kilometer long tube in California.

Then they built the ultimate death ray in it - you know, Star Wars and all that - an X-ray laser.

Then, just for fun, they smashed things up!

Credit: Gregory M. Stewart/SLAC

First, they fired it at a piece of aluminum, reducing it to a spot of plasma hotter than the center of a star. Unhinged, but, I concede, fun.

But now here comes the totally bonkeroony bit. They put a tiny protein molecule at the end of the gun, generated a huge pulse of X-rays, and blew it to smithereens! (Guffaws, rolling about on the floor laughing, pointing fingers).  What these deluded loons thought was, that in the teeny-weeny bit of time time after the pulse hit and before the delicate little biological molecule  vaporized into eternity, the X-rays would scatter off it and form an image of the protein. Then, they could use the structure to understand biology, design new medicines etc. Totally Tonto, I tell you!

Thing is - looks like it might be working........

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


The Mittelstand is the historical heart of the German economy. Small firms, with about 50-100 workers, say, that we have never heard of, still make quality products sold all over the world. Eberhard Voit, a Professor at Georgia Tech who models metabolic systems in the Bioenergy Science Center, gave me a cute example of this in the bar last night.

Eberhard comes  from a town close to Luedenscheid in North-Rhein Westphalia. During the industrial revolution  folks there started working with metal, and someone found out how to make nice buttons. They made more and more of them, saturated Germany, then started exporting. By 1860 millions of Luedensheid buttons were being sent everywhere, equipping even the Chinese military.

Did workers in this small town, as 100 years ago they were packing boxes full of buttons to be sent to some "exotic" location,  dream of what it would be like to actually go there?