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George Rowell

Member Since 13 July 2018 - 07:48 AM
Offline Last Active Jan 16 2019 02:21 AM

Topics I've Started

James Watson EQ 50 : Give the Nobel and honours to Rosalin Franklin - postumously.

14 January 2019 - 08:41 AM

Sexism in science: did Watson and Crick really steal Rosalind Franklin’s data?

The wave of protest that followed Sir Tim Hunt’s stupid comments about ‘girls’ in laboratories highlighted many examples of sexism in science. One claim was that during the race to uncover the structure of DNA, Jim Watson and Francis Crick either stole Rosalind Franklin’s data, or ‘forgot’ to credit her. Neither suggestion is true.
In April 1953, the scientific journal Nature published three back-to-back articles on the structure of DNA, the material our genes are made of. Together, they constituted one of the most important scientific discoveries in history.
The first, purely theoretical, article was written by Watson and Crick from the University of Cambridge. Immediately following this article were two data-rich papers by researchers from King’s College London: one by Maurice Wilkins and two colleagues, the other by Franklin and a PhD student, Ray Gosling.
The model the Cambridge duo put forward did not simply describe the DNA molecule as a double helix. It was extremely precise, based on complex measurements of the angles formed by different chemical bonds, underpinned by some extremely powerful mathematics and based on interpretations that Crick had recently developed as part of his PhD thesis. The historical whodunnit, and the claims of data theft, turn on the origin of those measurements.
The four protagonists would make good characters in a novel – Watson was young, brash, and obsessed with finding the structure of DNA; Crick was brilliant with a magpie mind, and had struck up a friendship with Wilkins, who was shy and diffident. Franklin, an expert in X-ray crystallography, had been recruited to King’s in late 1950. Wilkins expected she would work with him, but the head of the King’s group, John Randall, led her to believe she would be independent.
From the outset, Franklin and Wilkins simply did not get on. Wilkins was quiet and hated arguments; Franklin was forceful and thrived on intellectual debate. Her friend Norma Sutherland recalled: “Her manner was brusque and at times confrontational – she aroused quite a lot of hostility among the people she talked to, and she seemed quite insensitive to this.”
Watson and Crick’s first foray into trying to crack the structure of DNA took place in 1952. It was a disaster. Their three-stranded, inside-out model was hopelessly wrong and was dismissed at a glance by Franklin. Following complaints from the King’s group that Watson and Crick were treading on their toes, Sir Lawrence Bragg, the head of their lab in Cambridge told them to cease all work on DNA.
However, at the beginning of 1953, a US competitor, Linus Pauling, became interested in the structure of DNA, so Bragg decided to set Watson and Crick on the problem once more.
At the end of January 1953, Watson visited King’s, where Wilkins showed him an X-ray photo that was subsequently used in Franklin’s Nature article. This image, often called ‘Photo 51’, had been made by Raymond Gosling, a PhD student who had originally worked with Wilkins, had then been transferred to Franklin (without Wilkins knowing), and was now once more being supervised by Wilkins, as Franklin prepared to leave the terrible atmosphere at King’s and abandon her work on DNA.

Watson recalled that when he saw the photo – which was far clearer than any other he had seen – ‘my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race.’ According to Watson, photo 51 provided the vital clue to the double helix. But despite the excitement that Watson felt, all the main issues, such as the number of strands and above all the precise chemical organisation of the molecule, remained a mystery. A glance at photo 51 could not shed any light on those details.
What Watson and Crick needed was far more than the idea of a helix – they needed precise observations from X-ray crystallography. Those numbers were unwittingly provided by Franklin herself, included in a brief informal report that was given to Max Perutz of Cambridge University.
In February 1953, Perutz passed the report to Bragg, and thence to Watson and Crick.
Crick now had the material he needed to do his calculations. Those numbers, which included the relative distances of the repetitive elements in the DNA molecule, and the dimensions of what is called the monoclinic unit cell – which indicated that the molecule was in two matching parts, running in opposite directions – were decisive.
The report was not confidential, and there is no question that the Cambridge duo acquired the data dishonestly. However, they did not tell anyone at King’s what they were doing, and they did not ask Franklin for permission to interpret her data (something she was particularly prickly about).
Their behaviour was cavalier, to say the least, but there is no evidence that it was driven by sexist disdain: Perutz, Bragg, Watson and Crick would have undoubtedly behaved the same way had the data been produced by Maurice Wilkins.
Ironically, the data provided by Franklin to the MRC were virtually identical to those she presented at a small seminar in King’s in autumn 1951, when Jim Watson was in the audience. Had Watson bothered to take notes during her talk, instead of idly musing about her dress sense and her looks, he would have provided Crick with the vital numerical evidence 15 months before the breakthrough finally came.
By chance, Franklin’s data chimed completely with what Crick had been working on for months: the type of monoclinic unit cell found in DNA was also present in the horse haemoglobin he had been studying for his PhD. This meant that DNA was in two parts or chains, each matching the other. Crick’s expertise explains why he quickly realised the significance of these facts, whereas it took Franklin months to get to the same point.
While Watson and Crick were working feverishly in Cambridge, fearful that Pauling might scoop them, Franklin was finishing up her work on DNA before leaving the lab. The progress she made on her own, increasingly isolated and without the benefit of anyone to exchange ideas with, was simply remarkable.
Franklin’s laboratory notebooks reveal that she initially found it difficult to interpret the outcome of the complex mathematics – like Crick, she was working with nothing more than a slide rule and a pencil – but by 24 February, she had realised that DNA had a double helix structure and that the way the component nucleotides or bases on each strand were connected meant that the two strands were complementary, enabling the molecule to replicate.
Above all, Franklin noted that ‘an infinite variety of nucleotide sequences would be possible to explain the biological specificity of DNA’, thereby showing that she had glimpsed the most decisive secret of DNA: the sequence of bases contains the genetic code.
To prove her point, she would have to convert this insight into a precise, mathematically and chemically rigorous model. She did not get the chance to do this, because Watson and Crick had already crossed the finishing line – the Cambridge duo had rapidly interpreted the double helix structure in terms of precise spatial relationships and chemical bonds, through the construction of a physical model.
In the middle of March 1953, Wilkins and Franklin were invited to Cambridge to see the model, and they immediately agreed it must be right. It was agreed that the model would be published solely as the work of Watson and Crick, while the supporting data would be published by Wilkins and Franklin – separately, of course. On 25 April there was a party at King’s to celebrate the publication of the three articles in Nature. Franklin did not attend. She was now at Birkbeck and had stopped working on DNA.
Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958, four years before the Nobel prize was awarded to Watson, Crick and Wilkins for their work on DNA structure. She never learned the full extent to which Watson and Crick had relied on her data to make their model; if she suspected, she did not express any bitterness or frustration, and in subsequent years she became very friendly with Crick and his wife, Odile.

1959, Boston, Massachusetts, USA: James Watson and Francis Crick, crackers of the DNA code. Photo taken on occasion of the Massachusetts General Hospital lectures. Photograph: Corbis
Our picture of how the structure of DNA was discovered, and the myth about Watson and Crick stealing Franklin’s data, is almost entirely framed by Jim Watson’s powerful and influential memoir, The Double Helix. Watson included frank descriptions of his own appalling attitude towards Franklin, whom he tended to dismiss, even down to calling her ‘Rosy’ in the pages of his book – a nickname she never used (her name was pronounced ‘Ros-lind’). The epilogue to the book, which is often overlooked in criticism of Watson’s attitude to Franklin, contains a generous and fair description by Watson of Franklin’s vital contribution and a recognition of his own failures with respect to her – including using her proper name.
It is clear that, had Franklin lived, the Nobel prize committee ought to have awarded her a Nobel prize, too – her conceptual understanding of the structure of the DNA molecule and its significance was on a par with that of Watson and Crick, while her crystallographic data were as good as, if not better, than those of Wilkins. The simple expedient would have been to award Watson and Crick the prize for Physiology or Medicine, while Franklin and Watkins received the prize for Chemistry.
Whether the committee would have been able to recognise Franklin’s contribution is another matter. As the Tim Hunt affair showed, sexist attitudes are ingrained in science, as in the rest of our culture.
Matthew Cobb’s Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code is published by Profile Press.

Australian Poverty takes off.

05 January 2019 - 04:34 AM

Australian poverty is now calculated to have reached 13.2 %, yet this year Australian median wealth overtook Switzerland to become the World's greatest, so what gives?


Poverty in Australia is growing, that seems impossible, yet wealth is growing despite a falling property market (-3.5%). Unemployment is at 5.4% and has been steady for several years. The wealth is crammed into the upper 20%. Particularly disturbing is 17.3% of children are now living in poverty.



Australia used to be the land where anyone who rolled up their sleeves and were prepared to work hard would get rich. Looks like that has come to an end and that is a shame. I get the impression when all the data is in and we get a clearer picture, Australians are not going to like it. I think low qualified immigrants in particular are going to have their dreams crushed.

Former UK ambassador says Syrian Chemical Attacks were Staged - BBC interview.

04 January 2019 - 12:47 AM


First General Shaw ex-head of the SAS, then General (Baron) West Ex- head of British army and military intelligence. Then Peter Ford the ex-ambassador to Syria. Am I mistaken or do these 3 ex-government guys have the highest credentials? The head of the UK army (and intelligence), the head of the SAS and the ambassador to Syria, all contesting the White-hall and White-house anti-Assad narrative.

Here is ex UK ambassador to Syria Peter Ford talking to (destroying would be a better word) the BBC chappie.

Former Syrian UK Ambassador

-----I don’t think Assad is in the least worried that the inspectors will find out his guilt because he is probably not guilty, at least on this occasion. I mean if we can engage our brain as well as our emotions here, not be stampeded by those videos which are described as being unverified but which by dint of being repeated, over and over and over again, come to acquire a spurious credibility, we have to ask ourselves what are the sources of the information on which we are in this stampede to war are two fold, and I am sorry but the media are falling down on the job in investigating this. The sources are the Syria American Medical Society which is a pro-Islamist propaganda outfit based in the United States funded by the CIA ----Interrupted by BBC--.

BBC interviewer
Are you saying these factors have been staged and people have not died, haven’t been gassed?

Yes, Yes, in all probability the incidents have been staged. Come on we know how easy it is to fake images, anybody could stage those, and then the second source is supposed to be the so-called first responders, in this case they are the white helmets which is another pro-Islamist jihadi propaganda outfit who – interrupted – Please let me finish. Please let me finish with this important point. The witnesses to these terrible events are people who have themselves been involved in beheading, literally picking up the body parts, and we chose to give credence to testimony from these alleged first responders – interruption by BBC interviewer--.

The BBC does not allow questions of important detail to be addressed – interrupted again ---

We have a short period of time, I am trying to probe what you are saying that the point is that surely that Assad's reputation is already dented, what would be in the interests of people to stage these events.

Is that not obvious, a child can see the intention would be to produce the hysteria and now the military action that we are on the point of taking, risking our own safety. What the jihadis have done is jerk our leash and thankfully for one, I think it is pretty disgusting that we are allowing ourselves to have our own leash jerked by these Islamist fanatics, this is what is going on. And ask yourself, how does it profit Assad, please engage your brain. Please ask yourself how has Assad benefited from all this mayhem, in fact it has already rebounded against him, why would he do such a thing when he was already winning the battle for eastern Ghouta, which was virtually over, why would he choose this moment to do the one thing that would guarantee to snatch defeat for him from the jaws of victory?

Thank you very much for joining us ---

Two things puzzle me. One is how the media is allowed to accept unsubstantiated reports by jihadists. The other is why good people believe them. It has got to be group think, or as my aunt said, something in the water.

Mattis Out Blackwater Back - 'We are Coming'

26 December 2018 - 10:57 PM


Regime change could be getting privatized. What happens when Blackwater meets Wagner?

BTW, Erik Prince's sister is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. That's just plain cozy.

Since the 1970s, members of the DeVos family had given as much as $200 million to the G.O.P. and been tireless promoters of the modern conservative movement—its ideas, its policies, and its crusades combining free-market economics - Vanityfair.

It will get interesting to see who bankrolls Blackwater this mob.

The integrity Initiative is off to a good start - but Jeremy Corby is not so pleased.

24 December 2018 - 09:16 AM

The Institute for Statecraft is a charity founded in 2009, that is legally based in Fife, Scotland. Its objects are to advance education in the fields of governance and statecraft, and to advance human rights, and has considerable government funding.[1] The organisation manages the Integrity Initiative amongst other projects.[2][3]

Integrity Initiative

The Integrity Initiative is a project of the Institute for Statecraft that is intended to defend democracy from disinformation, in particular from Russia.[2][3][4]
In late 2018, the international hacktivist group Anonymous released documents about the Integrity Initiative, that purported to show the programme was part of a disinformation project to interfere in other countries. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office blamed Russia for the release of documents, which were "intended to confuse audiences and discredit an organisation which is working independently to tackle the threat of disinformation".[5][6] The GCHQ National Cyber Security Centre launched an inquiry into possible computer security breaches at the Institute for Statecraft.[5]
On 3 December 2018, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan made a statement to parliament that the government had provided £2.3 million of funding for the Integrity Initiative over the last two years from the cross-department Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), to support counter disinformation overseas, as part of a £100 million five years programme.[7][4][8]
In December 2018, the Sunday Mail reported that The Integrity Initiative's Twitter account had been used to attack Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and Seumas Milne. The Foreign Office minister, Alan Duncan ordered an investigation into the reports and stated “Not only must [anti-Labour attacks by Statecraft] stop, I want to know why on earth it happened in the first place.”[9][10] The Labour Party complained that government funds should not be used for party political purposes and the Integrity Initiative was the subject of a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons on 12 December 2018.[11] Alan Duncan stated that government funding "does [not] fund the management of the Integrity Initiative’s social media account", to which Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry responded that the Integrity Initiative project proposal included "social media activity".[2][3] On 13 December 2018, the Scottish charity regulator OSCR confirmed it had opened an inquiry into the Institute for Statecraft.[12]