Silence is the Enemy


The more people blog on a sub­ject, the less I feel like blog­ging about it. At best there’s noth­ing new I can add. At worst it’s fol­low­ing the herd rather than using your own voice. There’s cer­tainly plenty of people blog­ging on this topic and I’m not par­tic­u­larly well-informed on sub­ject. Silence is the Enemy is a cam­paign protest against the rape and abuse of women and girls in Liberia and around the world.

There are good reas­ons to join this par­tic­u­lar herd. At the moment the cam­paign is mainly based in sci­ence blogs, It’s not a sci­ence issue, it’s a human issue. In my case vis­it­ors here tend to come from both the arts and sci­ences, so this is a way of help­ing spread the mes­sage. If you have a web­log of your own, your can add your voice and hope­fully reach more people. Part of the cam­paign is to link to the Donate page of Médecins Sans Frontières, so there is one use there. The other is the pub­li­city for other sites. This might alert in the cynic in you, so I’ll explain it shouldn’t.

The Intersection, On Becoming A Laboratory And Domestic Goddess, Aetiology, Bioephemera, Neurotopia, The Questionable Authority, DrugMonkey, and Adventure In Ethics And Science will be donat­ing all rev­enue this month to Médecins Sans Frontières. If you’re cyn­ical you might think they’re tak­ing a small hit in earn­ings for plenty of pub­li­city. In fact the bal­ance is far, far more likely to be the other way round. These are all big blogs. The resid­ual effect of any increase in read­er­ship after June will be tiny com­pared to the loss of income they take for the month. If this was about mar­ket­ing there are much bet­ter ways to do it. Linking to these sites and ask­ing people to visit will not be mak­ing a mug of you.

The cam­paign would also like to see this become a global issue. So what they’re doing is link­ing to this page, so you can con­tact your Congressman. This doesn’t sit well with the inten­tion to make it a global issue. Readers in the UK would prob­ably have more suc­cess at find­ing a local rep­res­ent­at­ive at TheyWorkForYou. People in other coun­tries might want to link to their own gov­ern­ments. For the moment I’ll be hold­ing off writ­ing till I see if there’s a con­crete pro­posal to make to an MP. I’m sure they’re against rape too, but it would be bet­ter to see some­thing they could do rather than just agree it’s a Bad Thing. Hopefully some­thing pos­it­ive will come out of discussion.

Making a pos­it­ive step is the biggest reason of all for sup­port­ing the cam­paign. Certainly there are many atro­cit­ies which have happened, but it doesn’t just need bad people to com­mit them. It also requires many other people to stand watch­ing and say noth­ing. Silence is the Enemy is a very apt title. If some­thing can be done to raise aware­ness of the actions in Africa, hope­fully it will also get people ask­ing what we can do to tackle sexual viol­ence in the UK. To add your voice read Sheril Kirshenbaum’s post at the Intersection.

Seen Elsewhere


There’s a post up at Glossographia Warning: long and meta. I’m adding a note here because I’ll want to link back to it when i finally get onto blog­ging for the Tech Tuesday series. It’s more thoughts on pseud­onym­ity, anonym­ity and set­ting an example. I’m used to being held up as an example. I even hope one day to be held up as a good example. :)

If you want more his­tory, the History Carnival 77 is online at Airminded. I think that’s the first edi­tion I’ve seen with an NSFW section.

The 105th Carnival of Space is online at Space Disco. It includes a post on Snoopy’s role in the Apollo mis­sions, which you can read up on in pre­par­a­tion for the big anniversary next month.

You can also ignore the code below above It’s a claim code for Nature Blogs.

Herodotus and the shape of the world


What shape did the ancient Greeks think the world was? Usually the answer is to look in philo­sophy texts. It’s been sug­ges­ted that Thales thought the world was flat and floated on water. His (pos­sible) pupil, Anaximander, thought the world was drum-shaped and that people lived on the of the flat sides. The drum, he said, floated in the centre of the uni­verse. Anaximenes, the next philo­sopher at Miletos went back to a flat earth, float­ing on air. The prob­lem was solved when Pythagoras decided the world must be round some time around the late sixth cen­tury BC. So that’s that. Or is it?

There’s a couple of prob­lems with this. One is that the writ­ten sources aren’t the philo­soph­ers them­selves. They’re later records of what other philo­soph­ers thought they said. Or what later philo­soph­ers wanted other people to think they said. There’s a ques­tion of where they got their inform­a­tion from. They cer­tainly could have had access to the ori­ginal writ­ings. That might have been dif­fi­cult for Pythagoras though, who was head of some­thing like a secret soci­ety. The best sources on Pythagoras we have are from the 3rd cen­tury AD, about a eight cen­tur­ies after he lived. There was also a habit in the ancient world of stick­ing an older philsopher’s name on your book. Like today old wis­dom was often much more respec­ted than new.

Another reason to be scep­tical is that these were philo­soph­ers. They were at the cut­ting edge of thought, which doesn’t mean that hicks in the fields would have been up-to-date with cos­mo­lo­gical thought, or believed it. For example Pythagoras’ idea of a round earth would be con­sidered dan­ger­ously mod­ern in some parts of Texas. Don “Someone has to stand up to the experts” McLeroy prefers an older text for his thought. Likewise what would your less-educated ancient Greek think?
Continue read­ing