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

February 22, 2006

Malaria message in a bottle

Filed under: Neglected diseases — admin @ 10:44 pm

I came across an intriguing post on Boing Boing tonight. It reads:

“Little magazines that come stuck to pop bottles
A marketing student’s project to produce little magazines that are shipped under the removable label of a pop bottle is going into commercial production. The idea is to bypass traditional distribution systems and economics, and piggyback on the far-more-sophisticated soft drink distribution infrastructure.”

The coincidence is that when I attended the UN Millennium Project’s Nobel Forum meeting in Stockholm at the end of last month, I discussed the problems in getting information on malaria and other diseases out to remote villages in Africa with Kenya’s health minister, Charity Kaluki Ngilu. I mentioned that even in the most remote areas of Africa one could almost always find soft drinks, and suggested that perhaps she should think about piggybacking health programmes on top of such distribution infrastructures. I haven’t thought about this in detail, but it seems like an idea worth pursuing.

Collection of several hundred bookmarks on virtual globes, science, and GIS

Filed under: avian influenza,GIS,Google Earth,Open data,Social bookmarking — admin @ 2:04 pm

Journalists researching articles come across many interesting web resources, but whereas a few key ones might be linked to in the final published articles, most remain on the journalists’ hard drives, never used or exploited again by themselves, let alone others. During my research into scientific applications of virtual globes, such as Google Earth — articles linked to here — I checked out many web resources. Given that these resources might be useful to others, I’ve now made them all public on Connotea, the free social bookmarking service for science professionals.

In a sense, I’m sharing with everyone some of my effort put into researching the topic, with the thinking that my link collection might provide starting points that are an alternative, and more select, starting point than a Google search for virtual globes and science.

February 15, 2006

Google Earth on the cover of Nature

Filed under: GIS,Google Earth — admin @ 7:34 pm

What on Earth is Google Earth doing on the front cover of Nature, the international weekly journal of science?

This week’s issue contains several pieces on virtual globes, and all are on free access. I’ve written a three-page feature — Virtual globes: The web-wide world — on the various ways scientists are beginning to use virtual globes, such as Google Earth and Nasa’s World Wind. And Al Gore, former US vice-president, who envisioned the Digital Earth in 1998, also gives his thoughts on the new developments, and his initial vision. “Its highest purpose was to use the Earth itself as an organizing metaphor for digital information,” he says in the article.

I discuss the feature in an accompanying podcast.

February 13, 2006

Avian flu — Africa, Thai dogs, catching up

Filed under: avian influenza — admin @ 10:40 pm

Some quick pointers/quick catch up.
I’ve published tonight a piece showing the first scientific evidence of possible widespread infection of dogs with the avian flu virus H5N1; in Thailand: see “Thai dogs carry bird-flu virus, but will they spread it?

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