Friday, April 14, 2006

Blog direction

When I first started this blog last year the intent was to argue against certain claims made against the MeNZB vaccination scheme in New Zealand (hence the title and the little quip under it). As it turns out, that particular thing has become rather moot these days and the media, public and everyone else has pretty much moved along. This is probably the result of the fact the vaccination regime has actually worked, which always does a lot to end all various people fussing around.

So the result really is now to establish a more solid direction to what I want to do with the blog. I've become less and less interested in nuts as time has gone on. For example, there are many blogs that are dedicated to the debunking of claims from creationists like the Discovery Institute, general nutters and all sorts of others. While I will definitely continue to add my 2cents on discussions on claims from said groups in my relevant subject areas (Microbiology and immunology), it's unlikely that I'll have a lot to add in other subjects as many other blogs cover the area (quakery debunking) quite well. For example, see this post by Ian Musgrave from the Pandas thumb on the hillariously ineffective response of the DI to the recent hormone evolution paper in Science, as a good example of what I'm meaning. Many more examples abound on many other blogs I visit regularly like Pharyngula, Respectful Insolence and Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Where to go on this blog? Well, I'll probably continue to write on subject areas that interest me (or manage to rile me up) more so than plain 'debunking' of various claims, which are usually the same ones as made last month/week/year that never seem to die. As a result, I'll probably blog a lot more about microorganisms, their relationships with us and how we can benefit from microbes. For examples of what I mean, my series on bovine tuberculosis in britain (Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV), farm animal cannibalism, probiotics (here and here), microbes I find interesting like the plague (Here and here*) and mare reproductive loss syndrome. Additionally, I also hope to write a lot more about the vertebrate immune system and why immunity to microbes has been such a critical factor in our evolution. This will be along the lines of my current posts on MHC (Part I, Part II and Part III, with some updates to come as I've read a lot more since) and I intend to elaborate more on the evolution of Toll-like receptors in future (a very soon future) as well.

Most importantly, I intend to keep more to things that I say I will do. For example, I have not forgot that I was supposed to write more about TLRs, the alternative theories about the black death* and such, it's just I unfortunately haven't managed to get around to doing the reading. In future, I hope to keep more to what I say I will write, so that if you see "post tommorow" that post will turn up 9/10 tommorow. Not uhhh, next week or maybe even a couple of months as the current blogging schedule seems to work with me :p

So what is to come? Well there will be the continuation of the Bovine tb series next week and future posts on the ethics of talking openly about bioterrorism, which is why this series hasn't been continued yet if you've wondered. In fact, I was going to delete the post until it was included in a carnival of the wee animacules, so I decided to keep it up but not continue it. There will be many toll-like receptor posts next week and how zany those scientists who work with Drosophila melanogaster are. For a change, I also intend to write a post about how bacteria help us in our daily lives as opposed to their typical PR of being evil pathogens (among other things). Finally, I hope to go over how plausible a 'doomsday' virus could be and how we could combat it.

So the new direction is really more about writing about and explaining interesting science on evolution and microbiology, which would otherwise go unnoticed to most non-scientists. I'll leave the debunking of creationists (for example) in areas out of my field of expertise to the professionals.

*There is quite a lot of debate on the issue, so I'm taking my time to read everyones opinion andvarious back and forth exchanges in certain journals.