Richard P Grant and his BioLOG (biolog); the wee blog, weblog, or web blog; things not necessarily biology related. The anti-blogger.


16 December 2010

On moving on

After Nature Network shafted me and a few others over our blogs there (they locked us out without warning, meaning we couldn’t make a a graceful transition), I launched a new blog network, called Occam’s Typewriter.

All my ‘serious’ and ‘not-so-serious’ blogging will henceforth be at Confessions of a (former) Lab Rat,

Please do the thing with your bookmarks and RSS feeds.

Praise for Occam’s Typewriter


we need to pay you more

I will happily buy you a pint

grumpy old scrotum

hope wikileaks isn’t hacking us

When did Richard ever *not* ask for trouble? Trouble is what he likes. Trouble with a capital T.

Would just like to mention that @rpg7twit is a genius :) #occamt


20 October 2010

Open letter to Simon Hughes, MP

Dear Simon

Thank you for signing Early Day Motion 767. This implies your support continued (if not increased) public funding of scientific research, along with many of your colleagues in the Coalition. Today we learned that science funding has been ring-fenced for the next four years. While I am happy that science funding has not borne the brunt of the CSR’s bad news, it is disappointing that your administration has not seen fit to invest in an area proven to deliver economic growth.

But that is not why I am writing today. I helped organize the Science is Vital campaign, which saw over two thousand scientists and their supporters demonstrating outside the Treasury on Saturday 9 October. We arranged a lobby of Parliament and filled Committee Room 10 with over 100 constituents and some two dozen MPs. More MPs sent representatives. We delivered a petition of nearly 34,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street two days later. I wrote to you asking if you would care to meet me at the lobby—as did at least one other member of your constituency. We filed a green card to let you know we were there. You did not turn up, nor even have the grace to send a message.

Now, I know that Vince Cable was speaking to the House at that time. We waited until questions had finished, waited until the chamber had emptied. You, I am told by somebody who saw you, met with other members of your party in the committee room next door—yet you did not attempt to meet me.

I also wrote to you last May, about libel reform. You didn’t respond to that letter either. But you did send me a Christmas card. I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

Do your other constituents wait in vain for a response from you on matters important to them? Do they, like me, make the effort to come to Parliament to talk to you (taking time away from their own work or family or leisure), only to be ignored, without being offered even the most basic courtesy? A message that you were unavoidably detained would at least have signalled you were aware of my existence.

There is no room for complacency in democracy. If the people of a constituency feel that their MP no longer represents them, they will replace that MP with somebody else. This is not merely their right, but their duty. And the lesson I have learned from the Science is Vital campaign is that in a democracy, determined groups of quite unlikely citizens have extraordinary power.

Yours sincerely

Richard P. Grant

Filed under: fools (!gladly) — rpg @ 22:24

1 June 2009

On doing my duty

This is the (slightly edited) text of an email I’ve just sent to my MP, Simon Hughes (can I even mention his name? HT: Jenny)

Dear Simon

You are no doubt aware of the case that the British Chiropractic Association brought against Simon Singh, the popular science author. Singh criticized the BCA for making medical claims [potentially libellious bit redacted] that have no basis in fact. Rather than demonstrating that Singh was wrong, the BCA sued him for libel (see here and here among other places).

This is no way for a supposedly civilized society to behave. Our country has a long history of encouraging ideas, and furthermore of debating those ideas in the public sphere. It is how new ideas are forged and progress is made. We are not some totalitarian regime where those who ask difficult questions are arrested or otherwise silenced: we rejoice in our ability to poke fun at the establishment, to draw offensive cartoons, to get ideas into the open and give them a good seeing to.

Singh was not sued because he was actually libellious, but because of potential defamation. The BCA were, apparently (and I am no lawyer) quite within their rights under UK law to bring this action, which to me says that the law needs to be changed. I am informed that even mentioning someone by name in a blog post could result in legal action, for example).

And Singh is not the only one. I keep a weblog at Nature Network, which is run by Nature Publishing Group: the same company that publishes the world’s leading scientific journal. In the last week another blogger on the Network―a professor at Imperial College and a personal friend―had a blog post removed on legal advice by Nature Publishing Group’s lawyers. We are still a little bit in the dark about this, but it might be because he suggested that certain people―certain well-known and certainly richer peopler―don’t have a firm grasp of what ‘scientific authority’ means. This is potentially defamatory, and could lead to legal action? In what sane and free-thinking world is that the case?

I’ve taken the liberty of attaching a saved copy of the blog post to this email, so you can judge for yourself whether such opinion should be censored―or be the subject of a libel action.

My fellow writers at Nature Network are interested in communicating with other scientists as well as in engaging with the wider community: to share what science is (and is not), how science is done, why it’s important; its limitations as well as its strengths and maybe, just maybe, to help people make informed decisions about how they live their lives. But if every time someone writes something that criticizes an idea or an attitude, they are under threat of legal action, what is to become of this ideal?

Research councils and funding agencies are waking up to the necessity of scientific communication within the community, and are currently looking at ways of funding and encouraging active scientists to partake in this. If part of scientific communication is saying what is and what is not science, and explaining why certain ideas are wrong-headed, or not scientific, or mistaken, or just plain dumb, then how can we do that if we need a lawyer to check everything we write? How can we, as scientists, engage with the lay public if we’re afraid to do so?

(It might be argued that Nature Publishing Group, which, presumably, is concerned with the dissemination of ideas and which, over the last few years, has tried very hard to make scientific papers more accessible, should try a little harder to defend the people writing for it. That’s not really the point though: if their lawyers don’t think they could win this case before the threat of an action has even been made, there is something seriously wrong with the law.)

This is not about free speech. It is not about ‘rights’. It is about the responsibilities that scientists have towards the taxpayer, the people who pay their salaries and fund their research; scientists’ responsibility to engage each other in discussion; their responsibility to give back to the community the fruit of their research. This is about the culture of scientific debate―open, honest, robust debate―that has existed (until now) in this country and the wider scientific community. This culture is now under threat, and will remain so until the law catches up with the 21st Century.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Grant

PS I will be posting the content of this letter on my own weblog. Unless someone threatens to sue me first.


Filed under: fools (!gladly) — rpg @ 7:15

17 December 2008


My ISP is running a survey on the Government’s ill-conceived and unworkable plans to introduce mandatory internet filtering. I’m not going to encourage you to respond, and I’m not pointing out that you should strongly disagree with everything.

Filed under: fools (!gladly) — rpg @ 19:57

24 November 2008

It’s not me, it’s you

I don’t know what’s funnier: that the ‘tards missed their target completely, or the awful grammar (third comment).

‘From whence cometh’? Way to sound like a pillock.

Filed under: fools (!gladly) — rpg @ 11:28

10 November 2008

What he said

No, really.
Internet filtering is s stupidly bad idea

Filed under: fools (!gladly) — rpg @ 10:18

10 September 2008


Big Bang (via Jonathan).


Take a look at the source: ” if the lhc actually destroys the earth & this page isn’t yet updated…

Filed under: fools (!gladly) — rpg @ 11:46

18 August 2008

Poor people

My heart bleeds. Perhaps someone should help these poor people.

My name is Richard Bromley, I have been diagnosed with a 
deadly ailment that was discovered very late. It has defied 
all form of medicine. I have only about a few months to live 
according to medical experts. I have not particularly lived my 
life so well, as I never really cared for anyone not even myself 
but my business. I want you to assist me in disbursing funds 
to charity organizations. Please reply me through my private 
email immediately so i can explain further. 

And this sounds like a nice lady:

Hello my dear,

Greetings and Nice to meet you, how is everything,hope all is well with you and your family. My name is Michelle Kouassi, I found your contact during my research in Internet and after going through your profile I picked interest to contact you.

I’ve something very important and profitable which I would love to share with you, but not in a public site like this,therefore,would advise you to kindly write me back,so that I’ll give you details.

Waiting anxiously for your anticipated corporation,

Yours Sinclerely,

Miss Michelle Kouassi

If anyone were to sign these people up to unwholesome mailing lists, I couldn’t possibly condone that course of action.

Filed under: fools (!gladly) — rpg @ 14:17

7 August 2008


Telstra has updated your BPAY View Biller Code. You will receive a letter from Telstra telling you about this change. Once you receive this, to continue receiving your bill electronically via BPAY View you will need to re-register for BPAY View with your new Biller Code.

Details on how to do this can be found at the BPAY web site

To avoid confusion we suggest you delete the existing BPAY View registration and BPAY biller details in your biller address book. Thank you.

This is an automatically generated email advice. Please do not reply to this email.

This is the Telstra we’ve … just given the heave-ho and finger to, right?


Filed under: fools (!gladly),Uncategorized — rpg @ 7:17

30 March 2008

Earth shower

So people turned the lights off and sat around candles.

 Which are carbon based.  We really are doomed, aren’t we? 

Filed under: fools (!gladly) — Tags: — rpg @ 13:11
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