Monday, June 9, 2014

Siri… find me directions to the killer robot conference

Image courtesy of

Despite a rash of positive coverage –extoling the positive possible uses of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs for short)– the image of the drone as a killer robot is back (cue the Terminator references) and with a vengeance. This week the U.N. (yes, the United Nations) is taking up the issue of a proposed ban on killer robots. As Ishaan Tharoor of WashPo points out, while Human Rights Watch and a number of other international NGOs banded together about a year ago to launch the international campaign against killer robots.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Contamination in vitro, in vivo

Contamination in vitro, in vivo
All of these journal, magazine, and newspaper headlines call our attention to a problem—a crisis even—of contamination, invasion, and toxicity.  Some of them are referring to contamination between species of plants and animals.  Others decry the contamination of human cells.  But what does it mean that when we come together to talk about cell and tissue cultures or environmental conservation, we simply can’t seem to get out of the language of invasion and contamination?

Life. Cancer. Death. Profit.

There is much buzz around the word “cancer” these days, especially when delivered in its more inspiring two-word formats, “fight cancer”, “beat cancer”, ”cure cancer”. The words conjure up heroic images of brave patients, many of them young children, fighting the noble fight against what many consider humanity’s greatest foe, an out-of-control cell growth that takes more than half a million (8.2 million worldwide) of our loved ones each year. One cannot help but feel a communal sense of pride and achievement from hearing news of the latest breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment.  “After all, we’re all in this together”, says an ad for the University of North Carolina Cancer Care.

Soda Taxes Redux

Recent propositions for the application of new taxes on sodas have reignited discussions surrounding the role of sugary beverages in the rise of obesity rates around the world, and the potential public health initiatives that hope to curtail it. While previous attempts at enacting soda taxes were defeated, most notably in New York and California, public health advocates seem hopeful that things will be different these days. 

Metaphors and Psychology

Do metaphors effect how we process information and therefore behave?  Two articles, seemingly focusing on quite different phenomenon, seem both to be suggesting that metaphors indeed do affect our behavior in pointedly emotional ways.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Knowledge Production and Justice: What counts as valuable knowledge in today’s K-12 Curricula

What counts as valuable knowledge? That is, how do we make decisions about what we should teach and not teach students in K-12 education? What is taught throughout a student’s educational trajectory delivers the message that the subjects and topics taught are worthy and crucial for developing the lens through which we see and understand the world.

Biomedical Ethics of Human Enhancement Technologies

Technologies for human enhancement aim to improve or overcome limitations of our biology. It's a brave new world, but how will we make room for flaws in a society obsessed with perfection?