GM, Blowing in the Wind

The Sciencemag website has an article that will lead me into today’s post, about an organic farmer in Australia who has taken his neighbour to court over GM contamination. The organic farm has traces of GM materials that have apparently blown in from the neighbouring farm, leaving authorities no choice than to take away the farm’s organic certification.

This has of course led to a loss of income, and so the owner is suing for $85,000 to recoup his losses.

Now although there are standards about leaving space between GM and non GM plantation, it has become increasingly clear that contamination is somewhat inevitable, and this is reflected in regulations.

In the US a farm can have organic status even in 5% of its produce is found to be GM (presumably from air borne contamination). In the EU 0.9% is allowed, reflecting a tougher stance but demonstrating the impracticalities of a total ban.

In Australia though they do have a zero tolerance standard, so any traces of GM lead to the loss of license.

100% Organic

100% Organic

We might wonder if the organic farmer will win his court case, because how can the GM farm stop their materials blowing in the wind? Can it possibly be the GM farmer’s fault? Well precedence suggests that it might well be, because in a reverse situation contamination has been dealt with.

Just a month ago the US supreme court upheld biotech giant Monsanto’s claims on genetically-engineered seed patents and the company’s ability to sue farmers whose fields are inadvertently contaminated with Monsanto materials.

The high court left intact Monday a federal appeals court decision that threw out a 2011 lawsuit from the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and over 80 other plaintiffs against Monsanto that sought to challenge the agrochemical company’s claims on patents of genetically-modified seeds. The suit also aimed to curb Monsanto from suing anyone whose field is contaminated by such seeds.

The case is Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al., v. Monsanto Company, et al. Supreme Court Case No. 13-303 if you would like to look it up, and as I say above one of the aims was to take away the possibility of a farmer being sued for inadvertent contamination, but this aim was not reached. Monsanto state that they have never sued anyone in this position and would not sue any farmer whose farm was found to have less than 1% contamination, and some interpretations suggest that the ruling seems to have made this binding.

It does look as though the contamination issue is causing some headaches for all parties involved.

Now I would like to think about how these rulings intact with other. Let’s take the Australian court case. If the organic farmer wins, other GM farmers will start to worry about their own liability and worry about planting their crops. This might lead to a slow down of the spread of the crops, to the cheer of the organic communities. But it will not help bring about a peaceful co-existence, which is a reality today, so might lead to regulators deciding that their zero policy approach needs a rethink. So maybe they will decide to enact a more US or European stance, and allow a percentage within organic certification, thus relieving the stress from the situation, leading to a more manageable co-existance and possibly aiding the spread of GM products, (probably not the organic farmer’s intended result).

On the other hand, the GM farmer might win, relieving the burden from other GM producers, leading to a more manageable co-existence and possibly also aiding the spread of GM foods.

What did you Wiki search for in 2012?

Did you use Wikipedia in 2012? Probably a silly question, as according to Alexa, 12.80% of all web users yesterday visited the online encyclopaedia, as part of their online day. The 3 month average reach of Wikipedia.org is 12.575%, so yesterday’s figure was no anomaly.

I usually visit Wikipedia multiple times a week.

Wikipedia logoThe fact that Wikipedia is open source is good, as it enables it to use the help of millions of people around the world to build its massive online encyclopaedia. Open source does however also leave it open to vandalism, as on most articles, nobody needs to verify your changes. Many Wikipedia articles are very accurate though, and they are getting better year on year.

In 2012, what was it you Wikied? A few days ago, Wikipedia released a list of the most popular pages visited on its site, segmented by country. The statistics make interesting reading, if you get some time.

With 32,647,942 views in 2012, Facebook topped Wikipedia’s list for the most visited English page. Wiki came in second with 29,613,759 views. Deaths in 2012, One Direction, The Avengers (2012 film), Fifty Shades of Grey and the 2012 phenomenon all had over 20 million views. The Dark Knight Rises, Google and The Hunger Games (all with 18+ million views) made up the rest of the English top 10 list.

For all of the top 10, I think you can understand why they were such popular searches. As Facebook becomes evermore a global brand, more and more people want to know what it is, and those using it, want to know more about it. A logical big winner.

With Wikipedia the 6th most visited site on the net, searching for what Wiki means, is probably not unexpected. One Direction, the 2012 phenomenon, The Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers were all popular 2012 trends online and off, hence their Wikipedia fame. Like Facebook, with growing web usage, and Google’s top spot on the web, that page you would naturally expect top have a big viewing.

The list isn’t limited to 10 pages though, Wikipedia have released the top 100 pages for many of the languages the site is published in.

Stephen Hawking - Photo from WikipediaThe 100th most visited English page is Stephen Hawking, the page about the British scientist, which had just over 7 million views in 2012.

Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, lecturer, defier of motor neurone disease and now 100th most visited English Wikipedia page 2012, what a career the 70 year old (71 tomorrow) has had!

With an extra 53,106 views, Albert Einstein just beat Hawking, claiming 98th place. That said, neither of the scientists had anything on Psy, who saw the page for Gangnam Style hit the 21st spot, with over 13 million views!

Many of the top 100 spots were claimed by websites (e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Google etc.), countries (United States, United Kingdom, India, Australia etc.) and trends (Katy Perry, 2012 Summer Olympics, Skyfall, Downton Abbey etc.).


The stats for other languages are also interesting to look at. Facebook appeared in most of the lists, topping the Spanish list, claiming 10th place in the German list, 3rd in the French and Turkish, 4th in the Portuguese etc. Wiki was also very popular, appearing in the top 10 list for eight languages, as was Google, appearing in three languages.

What did you Wiki search for in 2012? Can you even remember? I know I searched far too many pages to recall them all, but looking down the English list, I recall visiting most of the top 100.

Do the amazing figures behind this list (Facebook getting 30+ million on its English page alone) worry you sightly? Do we trust Wikipedia, which is potentially a very unreliable site too much?

Track Santa this Christmas Eve with NORAD

Today is Christmas Eve, which means that billions of people around the world will be celebrating Christmas tomorrow. Different people of different cultures celebrate Christmas in different ways; some celebrate today, many tomorrow, and others over a twelve day period.

About Santa

If you live in the Britain, France, the USA, Russia, Germany, Canada, Australia, or a (big) handful of other countries around the world, then you are probably familiar with the character of Santa Clause, or Father Christmas.

Christindl, Pere Noel, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas or whatever you call him, is a man who lives at the North Pole and sets out to deliver presents to good children across the world on Christmas Eve.

Good children will go to sleep on Christmas Eve and in the morning awake to find their stocking full and presents underneath the Christmas tree, courtesy of Santa. In return Santa asks only that children are good, and he uses information that robins relay to him to decide whether a child should go on the naughty list, or the nice list – he checks each list twice, just to be sure!

Track Santa With NORAD

This year, why not track Santa on his journey around the world with NORAD? Every year, the US military undergo a massive operation involving countless jets, radars and satellites to follow Santa on his journey, for the benefit of children everywhere, and to make sure that he doesn’t run into any difficulties.

NORAD Track Santa logoFrom December the 24th every year, you can track Santa thanks to NORAD. You can follow his route, watch videos as he completes parts of his journey, and learn about the different places he visits. As I write this Santa is over New Zealand, and has just visited Christchurch.

What are you waiting for? Track Santa now!

Remember this Christmas Eve to put the fire out before you go to bed, and to leave some milk/bear and a mince pie out for Santa, and maybe some sprouts or a carrot for the reindeer.

Merry Christmas all 🙂

An analysis of the iPhone 5

Is is nearly 3 months since the 6th incarnation of Apple’s iconic iPhone, the iPhone 5, was released. Often I think it is more interesting to discuss a technology a few months after its release, rather than just straight away, as faults have been exposed, and there are opinions about long-term use.

In this article I am going to explore what the critics think of the iPhone 5, the good, the bad and the faulty!

So what makes the iPhone unique from any other phone? Samsung would argue very little, because as soon as Apple’s latest smartphone was released, Samsung announced that it was filing a lawsuit against Apple, because it had infringed many of its patents.

Size and Weight

The iPhone 5
The iPhone 5 is bigger than its predecessor (the iPhone 4S). It is taller, the same width, and slightly thinner. When smartphones first hit the market, there seemed to be a race to make them smaller. Now however, the trend seems to be towards developing a bigger screen. Tablets are getting smaller and smartphones are getting bigger – will the two ever merge? I think they might, so watch this space!

Despite being bigger, the latest model is 28g lighter than the previous model, weighing an amazing 112g. Considering the technology inside the device, that is an impressive weight!

Camera

The pace of development of inbuilt cameras in mobile phones is staggering. The iPhone 5 has an 8 megapixel camera, which is very competitive considering that just a few years ago, 8MP was pretty good for a digital camera – which isn’t also a phone.

Reception

One of the main criticisms of the iPhone 5 is that it has stopped being a phone. Logically the primary purpose of a smartphone should be to call and text people, browsing the internet, using apps, taking pictures and other features are optional extras, and shouldn’t be the main function of the device. That said, there have been many reports about people finding that the iPhone 5 has really bad signal problems. I know of two people who are on the same network, one with a Samsung Galaxy S III and one with an iPhone 5. The person who owns the Galaxy can almost always get signal, whilst the person who owns the iPhone can’t. When the phones are in the exact same place, the Samsung device can get signal, but the Apple device can’t.

Speed

Because of all the new features of the phone, it needs to have a good processor, and it does. There was hope that it might have a quad-core processor, which it didn’t, however it does have a pretty good A6 processor, which is very speedy, and is what makes the iPhone 5 feels quick and slick. Match that performance with the 4-inch Retina display, and you have a very fast and flashy phone!

Siri

Siri has seen a few updates, but nothing major. The initial introduction of Siri in the iPhone 3GS was revolutionary, and there is still relatively little viable competition out there for Siri, however one expects an iPhone to come with Siri these days.

Maps

The iPhone 5 was the first phone released by Apple with iOS 6 – which had Apple Maps installed. Apple Maps is Apple’s own version of Google Maps, which has replaced Google Maps on the operating system.

Some of the navigation features have been praised, as having better clarity and being more useful than the Google alternative; especially due to the inbuilt Siri compatibility.

That said, there are major issues with Apple Maps, in that it can be really inaccurate. Australian police have actually advised people against using the software, after they had to rescue motorists stranded in the wilderness of a national park who were trying to find a city, which Apple Maps thought was in the middle of the the wilderness, not where it should have been!

Many places are not where they are meant to be, some just a few miles out, others quite a lot further! One example is Berlin. You know, that city in Germany. The capital city of Germany. Well according to Apple Maps, Berlin is on the continent of Antarctica, which isn’t only the wrong continent, but also the wrong hemisphere! Have a search for Apple Maps fails, and you get some pretty funny results!

Berlin, Antarctica - Apple Maps

Apple Maps really does think that Berlin is in the Antarctic!

Awards

The iPhone 5 isn’t short of awards. The phone is top of Time Magazine’s top 10 gadgets list 2012, which is a big achievement!

Sales of the phone are something else for Apple to celebrate. In the first three days of the phone being on sale, there were 5 million sales! That is 1 million more than the iPhone 4S got in its first three days.

Your Thoughts

Do you own an iPhone 5? If so, what do you think of it? Do you like the phone and iOS 6, it it revolutionary, or was it a waste of money?