Thursday, February 25, 2010

Addendum on Amy Bishop

When the "professor denied tenure shot some of the people in her department" story came up, I wondered if her invention was really as impressive as some of the initial news stories claimed. The technology to keep things at stable temperatures isn't new and to me it sounded like something that would have been put together a long time ago if it were something that Biologists really needed. Climate control and remote cameras aren't really new technology, after all.

I wrote to an actual biologist about it and she pointed out kindly that she was a plant biologist and only microbiologists would need Bishop's invention. Beloved-by-CC New York Times science writer Gina Kolata has written that my initial suspicions were more or less on the mark.

Also, yes, UAH-Huntsville is going to get to keep at least some of the proceeds from said invention, which is, I assume, why the UAH president was hyping it as this big technological breakthrough.

I am morbidly fascinated with this woman, which is weird because I haven't really given much thought at all to the guy who flew his plane into the IRS building. This is partially because the guy who flew his plane into the IRS building comes off as such a dumbass when you read his manifesto. The whole act just starts to seem like a giant temper tantrum from a lunatic who couldn't deal with the fact that he had to live by the same rules as everyone else. I don't know why Dr. Bishop should be more interesting, maybe it's just that she initially seemed like a normal person who snapped and more and more investigation has unveiled that she is so not.

I'll probably spare y'all after this, but I'm going to be reading whatever is written about her for awhile.



ejgejg said...

Her (seemingly court appointed) lawyer gave a strange and (unless I'm missing something major in the way of lawyering strategy) ill-advised interveiw to the WBUR local NPR station today. If it is possible to get online I think you might find it interesting both as a lawyer to be and as someone facinated with the case... I heard it at 6ish.

nkjvcjs said...

Her technology, the InQ, hasn't been released yet, but it seems like it might be a pretty big deal. The release was planned for summer 2010. Tissue culture is notoriously finicky. If the InQ made tissue culture more precise, and easier to do, the implications could be huge.
I am a very happy person that all of my work is done with bacteria.

epilonious said...

I now love Gina Kolata as well :D

PG said...

I find her less interesting than Stack, the guy who flew into the IRS building, because I think the latter is indicative of sentiments that go beyond just himself, whereas Amy Bishop did what she did solely for Amy Bishop. People who have causes -- even incredibly stupid, illogical ones -- always interest me more than people who seem to simply be crazy.

Chalicechick said...

I don't really see that it's a cause exactly. I read his manifesto and it seems like he tried to get something sneaky past the IRS relating to the wacky status of long term contractors in the technology business and he didn't get away with it. I find most of his explanations (his CPA withheld his wife's income, though I don't see why the CPA would get any benefit from doing so) self-serving and just kind of stupid.

Yes, there are tax penalties for being an independent contractor and that should probably be fixed*. Even the original sponsor of the bill who put them in thinks so. At the same time, Stack owned two freaking airplanes, so it's not like he was really being held back all that much. Any many who owns two airplanes and whines about capitalism has a poor sense of irony.

But that Stack seemed to view this tax issue as some sort of epic struggle of himself against "the man" and thought his stunt with the plane would "strike a nerve" and start a massive rebellion of some sort just makes him sound like a self-involved pain in the butt who thought the world revolved around him. I'm not saying he's any less crazy than Bishop, but his craziness seems less complicated and more annoying.


*Though his taxes were still probably nothing compared to what his daughter, who called him a "Hero", pays in Norway.

Also, she called him a "Hero" but doesn't condone the crash. Given that other than the crash, it seems like all he did with his life was write ranty letters and complain, the irrationality there is just mindboggling, though I know not many of us would be totally rational on the subject of a parent of ours who had just died.

PG said...

Yes, there are tax penalties for being an independent contractor and that should probably be fixed*. Even the original sponsor of the bill who put them in thinks so.

Right, but the people who are "empathizing" with Stack, as Rep. King put it, see this as part of a larger problem with the IRS: it's too powerful, it's too difficult to understand their regulations, how dare they audit me and show up at my door, etc. It's not just about this one provision; the provision is seen as emblematic of the IRC and the IRS's enforcement thereof being somehow rotten.

Stack's unlikely to start a massive rebellion, but he certainly has garnered some admirers, which so far as I know is more than Bishop has managed.

Chalicechick said...

(((Stack's unlikely to start a massive rebellion, but he certainly has garnered some admirers, which so far as I know is more than Bishop has managed.)))

I haven't seen actual admirers of Stack other than his daughter, who later retracted her statement.

And on this very blog somebody said that he was surprised that incidents like Bishop's didn't happen more given the tenure system. Indeed, Kolata's article noted that Bishop was initially widely viewed as a misunderstood genius before information casting doubt on her work came out.

Stack's case especially reminds me of how after Columbine, lots of people said "nerdy kids striking back against their bullies? Awful, but I understand it." That one didn't turn out to be especially true either.

People hate bullies and hate the IRS. That doesn't make every idiot who capitalizes on that hatred to excuse an act of violence all that interesting.