Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

December 20, 2005

Official: ‘Intelligent design’ is not science

Filed under: Creationism — admin @ 10:45 pm

A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board cannot have “intelligent design” taught in schools. The 139-page verdict concludes: “The secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom.” It concluded that ID was “not science.” Click here for full ruling

December 15, 2005

SETI@home moves home

Filed under: Distributed computing — admin @ 3:47 pm

I’ve a story in today on the BOINC platform developed by SETI@home as a sort of distributed supercomputing operating system for the Internet. SETI@home itself moves onto the new platform today.


December 14, 2005

Wikipedia rivals Encyclopedia Brittanica

Filed under: Wikis — admin @ 7:10 pm

This week’s issue of Nature contains a survey ( it’s on free access) of the quality of a sample of scientific entries in Wikipedia. They emerged as having hardly any more errors than corresponding entries in Encyclopedia Brittanica, often considered the gold standard of encyclopedias. In the survey, in which I was involved, entries were reviewed by external experts in each of the topics.

December 13, 2005

Getting GIS data into Google Earth

Filed under: GIS,Google Earth — admin @ 11:45 pm

Google Earth has set new standards for visualizing geographical information systems (GIS) data. Great for viewing the world’s sightseeing spots, your house, or the nearest hotels and restaurants at your business, or, holiday destination. But that’s a bit limited. The full extent of rich scientific, and other, GIS datasets often cannot yet be easily converted for viewing in Google Earth, because of differences in formats. Speak to anyone at various geographical or scientific databases these days and you often hear the same question: “How can we get our data into Google Earth?” New computing tools are now emerging, however, that are changing this situation.

December 9, 2005

Google Earth for Mac

Filed under: GIS,Google Earth — admin @ 1:19 pm

A Mac version of Google Earth is finally on the way. It’s reviewed here.
Via Ogle Earth

December 8, 2005

Looking for a great open source WYSIWYG web page editor?

Filed under: Software suggestions — admin @ 10:14 pm

One of the best open source WYSIWYG web editors I’ve come across is the cross-platform NVU; it has much of the functionality of Dreamweaver or Frontpage, but it’s free. Also if you are looking for the ultimate open source text editor try VIM; it’s light, powerful, and can handle huge datasets.

More on threatened Indonesian flu lab closure

Filed under: avian influenza — admin @ 9:43 pm

Scientific American today reported on the threatened closure of Namru-2 in Indonesia (see previous post). Associated Press also report that the laboratory may now be given a stay of execution, and that this may be tied to financial terms of any vaccine produced from Indonesian viral samples.

December 7, 2005

Indonesia threatens closure of US military lab that’s key to avian flu fight

Filed under: avian influenza — admin @ 10:41 pm

In tomorrow’s issue of Nature, I’ve a short exclusive on Indonesia seeking to close down Namru-2, a US military lab which has played a key role in helping build the country’s influenza surveillance and testing infrastructure.

Here’s a couple of snippets:

‘Thin blogs’, RSS and ‘social bookmarking’

Filed under: avian influenza,Blogging — admin @ 7:45 pm

Journalists are information professionals. We handle, and select, huge amounts of information every day, and add to it through our own investigations. That’s what we are paid for. But can we use new technologies to help us share our research better, rather than leaving it in notebooks and on our hard drives? I think so; here I kick off with just some personal reflections on bookmarks and web resources.

December 3, 2005

Skype launches video messaging

Filed under: VOIP — admin @ 10:40 pm

Skype, the voice over Internet telephone company, has just launched a free video beta, Skype 2.0, allowing videoconferencing calls. I’ve downloaded it, and it seems to work; more later…
My Skype tel number is declan6016

December 2, 2005

Science Commons details use of Creative Commons licenses for data

Filed under: Open data,Web services — admin @ 11:08 am

John Wilbanks, executive director of Science Commons has responded to the Nature editorial on data access and web services with a FAQ explaining in detail the application of Creative Commons licenses to databases.

From the Science Commons website: “Our goal is to encourage stakeholders to create areas of free access and inquiry using standardized licenses and other means; a ‘Science Commons’ built out of voluntary private agreements.”

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