Your Brain on Gore.

Some of you have seen this already.  It’s a few days old, this revelation of yet another difference between liberals and conservatives. In addition to the usual polarities on abortion, gun control, climate change, evolution— you know the list— here comes another wedge issue some of you may not have been expecting: Animal mutilation. Turns […]

Posted in: evolution, neuro, scilitics by Peter Watts 60 Comments

Terrorist Creep.

Anyone who believes that all laws should always be obeyed would have made a fine slave catcher. —John J. Miller   We had a shooting up here in Canada the other day. Like most things Canadian it was a modest, self-effacing affair, nothing that even a couple of losers from Columbine would write home about: […]

Posted in: rant, scilitics by Peter Watts 58 Comments

Liquid Surveillance

Cool term, huh?  Liquid surveillance. I learned it from Neil Richards’ 2013 paper “The Dangers of Surveillance” in the Harvard Law Review (thanks to Jesus Olmo for the link); it’s a useful label for that contemporary panopticon in which “Government and nongovernment surveillance support each other in a complex manner that is often impossible to […]

Posted in: rant, scilitics by Peter Watts 88 Comments

“Just to be Clear, I Don’t Expect You to Embrace Any of This…

“I’m told a lot of lawyers tend to show up at these things, and my guess is the standard legal toolbox does not come with a middle finger to stick to the authorities. Then again, lawyers also know better than most what an ass the law is; they know that some are more equal than […]

Tyson in the Ring

Didn’t Kill him.  Didn’t hug him. I laughed a lot, though. Neil deGrasse Tyson gave the inaugural Dunlap Award lecture over at the University of Toronto on Friday. A couple of tickets dropped into my hands at the last moment, a bit of karma for a minor role I’d played at the recent Toronto Science […]

Posted in: ink on art, reviews, scilitics by Peter Watts 10 Comments

NSA. BSG. AAAS. FOAD.

Back in 2003 I attended a talk by David Brin, at Worldcon here in Toronto. Brin had blurbed  Starfish; to say I was favorably disposed towards the man would be an understatement. And yet I found myself increasingly skeptical as he spoke out in favor of ubiquitous surveillance: the “Transparent Society”, he called it, and […]

Posted in: rant, scilitics by Peter Watts 51 Comments

Tick…tick…tick…

A reader going by the handle Sylvain linked me to a cool paper a few days back; it’s something I would have killed to have had back when writing Blindsight. Are you ready for this? A tick that turns its victims into vegetarians. Look to Commins et al for the peer-reviewed details; the tl;dr version […]

Posted in: biology, blindsight, scilitics by Peter Watts 12 Comments

Geoengineering and the Evils of Conservation

Well, traditional conservation, anyway. The kind where you presume to “manage” a wildlife population by ensuring, year after year, that its population remains stable. The problem is that as any population varies, so too does its behavior. Mortality curves, reproductive rates, vulnerability to pathogens and predators — a hundred other variables — all change with […]

Posted in: climate, marine, rant, scilitics by Peter Watts 22 Comments

If You Meet Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the Road, Kill Him.

An excerpt from a talk I’m working on, to be delivered a month and an ocean away: Two thirds of North America believes in Angels ; only half accept the reality of global warming. 78% believe that human beings were created by an invisible sky fairy, and 46% believe that this fairy created them in […]

Posted in: scilitics by Peter Watts 124 Comments

Sealing Fate

I’ve got a soft spot for seals. Back in the day I built a fair bit of my truncated biology career on the little beach maggots; Pacific harbor seals formed the very heart of my doctoral thesis, in fact (Attila, Thalidomide, and Strangway: I salute you, wherever you ended up). They even netted me a […]

Posted in: biology, marine, scilitics by Peter Watts 21 Comments