Category Archives: technology

Dr Taylor’s Shirt – We Also Landed on A Comet


A defining moment in human history in the technological and space age. We landed a probe on a comet. For most though, what really is out of this world is human affection. Like for example, a friend making a shirt for another. Using their creativity to show how much someone means to them. It might not make the world go round, but it makes the journey worth it.

Doctor Matt Taylor, the Rosetta Project Scientist at the European Space Agency, is a person to celebrate. The son of a bricklayer, he is the embodiment that science is open to all those that want to reach for the stars. His appearance, with tattoos uncovered and a shirt that was homemade by a female friend of his, rocked the world as much as his team’s achievements.

ESA can land their robot on a comet. A comet! It’s amazing. But they still can’t see misogyny under their noses. It’s painfully ridiculous. Pointing this out is not a distraction to the science. It’s part of it. It’s time science finally realised that. [Alice Bell: Guardian]

Nothing like crassly using the man of the hour to make the serious point that we live under patriarchy, women are under represented in science, and misogyny exists in the workplace from the factory floor to the laboratory. Except the article really was more about the need for scientists and journalists to understand casual sexism. No mention that the shirt was made by a good female friend, but not in appalling labour conditions under low wage conditions like the feminist Fawcett t-shirts “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like

He apologized for having caused offense. His friend, who made the shirt for him, was standing firm:

Alice Bell in The Guardian “Political Science” article mentioned the online interview with the Wall Street Journal that Matt did. Some other questions he was asked “Can a person with tats all over their arms really be trusted??” (reply “Yes”) but this was the one where she quoted him, but not the question:

Sandeep Mukare: It’s generally agreed that a tattooed man can’t achieve great thing but you are an exception & My Q is how did u do it?

Matt Taylor (via WSJ): The people i work with dont judge me by my looks but the work that i have done and can do. Simple.

There were a number of questions about his tattoos. Appearance which breaks expectations gets way too much attention compared to the achievements and contributions that person can make. It reminded me of the article by Francesca Stavrakopoulou:

 Jonathan Wolff’s column about the way academics dress caused uproar on my Twitter and Facebook feeds this week. And rightly so. Despite occasionally acknowledging that some academics might be women, his comments betrayed his assumption that academics are male, for apparently their default uniform comprises trousers, a jacket, a shirt and a tie.

As the online interview showed, by having tattoos his credibility and responsibility to lead a European Space Agency was called into question. The irony of how visuals (let alone gender) cause people to form subjective opinions on others was lost in the rush to stick it to the man with a garish taste in shirts. Who had just helped in one more leap for humankind, and instead of tears of joy was forced to shed tears of humiliation by the condemnation of a social media mob.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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What Joanne Harris Actually Said About J K Rowling

Often I think there is a book inside of me, but at the moment the Doctor suspects it may be kidney stones. If there really is something of literally value inside you the prospect of fame, and fortune via the written word may be illusory for most of those hoping to make a living off it. Perhaps some at least know not to enter X Factor with their vocal talents. But maybe, with a few Retweets by authors of your blog posts you might think yes – I have what it takes. Maybe you do – but even so:

According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000. [The Guardian]

Still, perhaps it is only a matter of handing that manuscript to the right person at the right time. Like JKR …

Joanne Harris, best selling author of Chocolat, made this observation:

The general public has been led to believe by success stories like JK Rowling’s that authors are fabulously well-paid for doing a job that’s easy and fun. But stories are always more than they seem to be. Those people who assume that it’s just a little story about wizards are completely missing the point.

It is a fair point. Writing a book that can hold someone’s attention for two, three hundred pages is not as easy as it sounds. The amount most writers have to live off is pitiful compared to most jobs. Living off your royalties in luxury is most unlikely. You will be exceedingly lucky if the advance pays you the minimum wage for your efforts.

What Joanne Harris said has been lost in translation by media headlines, and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The Independent:

“JK Rowling’s ‘little story about wizards’ distorts truth about authors’ pay, says Joanne Harris”


Which is not what she said at all. The Daily Telegraph had:

“Author attacks JK Rowling’s Huge Wealth for ‘a little story about wizards’ “

The Daily Telegraph has since changed the headline – but the previous title still appears on a google search.


It has led to such comments as these by Kate Hopkins:


It is important to set the record straight for what Joanne Harris said. Not just for accuracy, but the message. Making an income to live off writing is becoming increasingly hard despite being in a technological age where it has never been easier to get your written work out there. In a drowning sea of digital e books, blogs, and established print media making professional material available for free.

Books are more than a collection of printed words. They are portals to other worlds. To another time whether past or present. A gateway to a place beyond imagination. You always remember a page turner. It is like a pet on the book shelf, where just seeing the spine sends tingles up your own as you reminisce about the story that wrapped you up in another universe.

In this media age people think they can be celebrities with no noticeable talent, and live off being a sensation from their 15 minutes of fame. We are also in an age where people expect to get content for nothing.

Joanne Harris needs to be heard on this. If we cannot give a lifeline to writers, rewarding their talent, then our literally culture will be in poor health.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Video: Celebrities Read Mean Tweets – and hit back!

Cemebrities like George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch read out some crass vulgar tweets that mention them (note video bleeps) and respond. The clip comes from the Jimmy Kimmel Live.


Two scores of thought are to ignore or challenge. Frankly, it is time to hit back and show potty mouths the joke is on them. It shows kids that adults get this abuse to – you are not alone and do not feel you have to keep this to yourself. There are more video clips on youtube which show a range of emotions which celebrities go through to respond.

In my article “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet” I concluded:

People want their lives witnessed, and have a self image to present to the world at large. Just remember twitter, Facebook and blog sites are publishing formats, like those of old. Increasingly they are leading to legal action for hate speech, slander and libel.

Those values of civility, integrity and truth are not outdated concepts for the social media age. They are essential for civilisation, whatever age humans have lived in, and for the continued good health of human discourse.

Thanks to @DrewJPS for sharing.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Video: Full Interview Richard Dawkins Interview – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Richard Dawkins Interview – 24 September 2013 – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart


Are there aliens on other planets, can religious people reconcile faith and science, and will humanity’s last words be “It worked!”

Jon Stewart getting a natural high interviewing Dawkins, with some fine probing questions on wonder and religion. One to watch as only twenty odd minutes.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, Culture, Dawkins, Humour, Richard Dawkins, Science, technology

To the journalists out there – thanks from a blogger


Engel said that just because someone knows how to use Twitter does not make them necessarily a journalist.

“We’re all bloggers and punks and rebels with cameras. There is absolutely no respect for career journalists anymore,” he said. [CBC News]

One distinction between a blogger and a journalist is the news gathering of the later over the opinion on the publicised news of the blogger. The journalist is a paid professional with training in media, the other usually unpaid with a particular interest or perhaps a qualification in the field they talk about but no training beyond getting to grips with formatting a blog.

Yet there is a cross over. Some journalists run a blog to promote their work in one place or talk more freely than perhaps published journalism would let them.

In some ways us bloggers are parasites feeding off the labours of others then giving our spin on it to suit either our opinions and those that may follow us – in under 800 words. How we do this is not governed by any particular media code of ethics. There is no “off the record” or established protocol in how a blogger goes about their scribbles. We have no editors or legal departments to advise us or improve our copy. Frankly we sometimes learn by trial and error – and the law does not necessarily give a blogger the same privileges a journalist can claim when covering a story.

We do filter the news. If you follow this blog there is a good chance that is because I cover secular, atheist and religious stories – other things too but those are my principle interests to comment on. What I try to do when covering a story is see if something is being left out in the mainstream media, or I have a genuine interest and something to say.

Bloggers should not compare themselves to the news gatherers – let alone those on the front line. In the article cited above over 600 journalists have been killed in the past decade. 90% of the journalists slain have yet to have the perpetrators brought to justice.

Which makes what I write very opinionated yet safe in comparison. I know that my mother worries that I do not hide behind a pseudo name when criticising religion. I assure her that free speech gives me the right to speak and that even those that disagree uphold that right in my experience.

I know others are not so fortunate. That they become targets either because of their background, or where they live. For example the atheist bloggers in Bangladesh still facing blasphemy charges. Or good friends at the Council of Ex Muslims Forum who have to use pseudo names in case they are outed as apostates for genuine fear of reprisals.

Hopefully us bloggers on sofas will be ever grateful for those that risk life and limb to get the news to us, and the liberties we have to write what we do.

The photo above comes from this post here which shows journalists in anything but a good light with members of the public.

    New published posts by John Sargeant:

Colin Brewer and talking freely about disabled human rights – Left Foot Forward

Twitter: Let’s not Indulge with the Pope The Huffington Post

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under blogs, Council of Ex Muslims of Britain, technology, World