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Showing posts from 2011

Acne, a side effect of being a successful 'high flying' career woman? Not at all.

This is the latest blight to 'successful', 'high powered', 'bossy' women...

According to The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Marie Claire, and Female First:

- 'Acne new problem for successful women'

- 'Acne, curse of the high-flying career woman: Growing stress levels to blame for outbreak of pimples'

- 'Stress causing acne in successful women'

Recognising Public Engagement

Universities in the UK have embraced 'Public Engagement'. There is a Public Engagement Manifesto. My university (University of Aberdeen) have signed it. But who carries this 'vital' work out and are they being recognised for it?

The University of Aberdeen is committed to achieving distinctive excellence across all aspects of its activities including the vital objective of engaging with society. We are building on a considerable track record, where public engagement has become ever more embedded in our core business. Moving forward, our Strategic Plan 2011-2015 reflects our ongoing commitment to support and empower our staff and students to help deliver a diverse, creative and accessible programme of activities with a measurable public impact. Partnership is central to our strategy and our active involvement with the work of the NCCPE extends back to its inception. We therefore endorse the principles of the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research and fully supp…

The Cervical Cancer Jab and the 'Waking Coma'

I read an extremely sad news story this evening about a girl who is trapped in a 'waking coma'. Sleeping for 23 hours a day she has been unable to open her eyes for several weeks. Her condition is according to the news reports undiagnosed, but her symptoms have been linked to ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Her story has been covered on The Daily Mail, Telegraph, Sun and many other major news websites after the local newspaper covered the story.

Unfortunately, I feel that this story has only hit the big newspapers as her symptoms coincided with her receiving the cervical cancer vaccine and the headlines and articles all suggest that the cancer vaccine is the cause of the girls condition. These are some of the headlines:

Daily Mail:  Girl, 13, left in 'waking coma' and sleeps for 23 hours a day after severe reaction to cervical cancer jabs

Telegraph: Cervical cancer jab left girl, 13, in 'waking coma' The Sun:  Cervical cancer jab puts girl, 13, in 'waking coma&#…

Wine, gives you cancer but makes you thin

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Once again, reporters pick up on stories related to booze. There are two wine stories in the news at the moment. Both found on the Telegraph website (and others)

 Story 1,Red wine holds key to better health for obese patients


Headline suggests drinking wine = good for health. The headline is misleading, but the study write up is pretty good. No 'scientists' in this article, only EXPERTS. Whoever they are...

This article is written about a small study on humans (11 male obese patients). The patients were given the treatment for 30 days (so very short term). Treatment was an injection (not a glass of) resveratrol (compound found in grapes at low levels - according to The Telegraph you would have to drink 13 bottles a night to acheive a dose similar to that in the study - not sure where this figure comes from). Results were compared to placebo treatment (the participants were given a placebo injection for 30 days at the start of the trial). The paper found that, ' 30 day…

Bring Back Board Games

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I LOVE board games. I get aggressive, grumpy and bossy (but I NEVER cheat, despite what my family say). A couple of years ago I found this beauty of a board game on Ebay, NORTH SEA OIL (I think it is from the 70s). I bought it for my boyfriend (who works in the oil industry) -


It is FANTASTIC. It's like oil Monopoly. It has mini oil rigs and real life oil situations (bad weather = no oil production).

Board games have always been 'big' in my family... we have this one 'ESCAPE FROM COLDITZ'.. for a million years, although we have no idea how to play it. Our Monopoly board was bought by my Grandma when she was a teenager (she likes to tell us every time we play) with real metal pieces...


I usually buy a board game for Christmas, the weirder the better.. here are some suggestions from the lovely people on my Twitter feed. They all look FAB.

LOOPING LOUIE - some kind of crazy German game where you fly 'Louie' round a crazy obstacle course... (@sulsatweets)


UCKERS

No Grazie, Grazia

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A few weeks ago Dr Petra (@DrPetra) highlighted a story that was doing the rounds in the national press about 'bossy women have less sex'... Google it under news and you will see the stories from around the globe (see here, safe to click). The story was formulated from a piece of research carried out with Sub-Saharan African Women, (freely available for all to read here)

This extract is taken from the abstract of the research article, 'Understanding how women’s position in the household influences their sexual activity may be an essential piece in protecting the sexual rights of women and helping them to achieve a sexual life that is both safe and pleasurable.'

This weekend I picked up a copy of Grazia Magazine and found this story -



I tweeted it because I was frustrated, I tweeted it at Grazia and Dr Petra. I was frustrated that a magazine, marketed at women, that aims to go beyond regurgitating the usual trashy gossip that other magazines print, found it appropriat…

Why get involved in 'Public Engagement' and 'Science Communication'?

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I was asked to talk to the new PhD students about some of the 'public engagement and science communication' activities that I am involved in and encourage them to take part.
I just got stuck. Why should students give their time to get involved with these activities on behalf of their university? Are they really going to help their career? I was told that if I was applying for a post doc, I should probably leave out of my application all the activities I do, as the potential employer may worry that I do not do spend enough time in the lab. (Just to stress... my PhD is my absolute priority, I make sure that I prioritise my PhD first and I never do an 'activity' instead of my PhD. I do them as well as, and mostly in my spare time).
So why do I do them?

Honestly, I started getting involved these 'activities' in an effort to meet people. I moved here from London after growing up in the North West of England and going to university in the North East of England. I kne…

Get Ripped by Scoffing Chocolate

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The world press has gone ABSOLUTELY CRAZ-EE with this fabulous piece of news, 'SCIENTISTS' claim, 'eating chocolate may be as good for you as going to the gym', ' eating chocolate is as good as jogging', 'as good as exercise'.



 WOWZERS. As if we needed another excuse to skip a gym session and eat more chocolate. Unfortunately, none of the headlines above are true. Sorry. Here's why:
- The study was small and carried out on MICE. Not people.
- The mice were not given chocolate, they were given an extract, (–)-epicatechin (which is found in chocolate). There is nothing to say how much chocolate (and what types of chocolate) you would have to consume to get the benefits that were seen in mice. You might have to eat 5 bars of chocolate a day to get those levels of (–)-epicatechin, who knows. Chocolate contains lots of other things, namely fat and sugar (which is why we like it). They did not investigate chocolate vs exercise in this study, …

Who Can You Trust?

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HAPPY MEN ARE LESS ATTRACTIVE

It has been proven by leading scientists that happy men are less attractive. However, happy women are more attractive. Have I got your attention? Do you trust me? Do you trust the 'scientists'? Are you going to change your behaviour?
How can you tell what to believe out of what you read, see or hear? Have you believed in something and then lost your belief? Green men from outerspace? Ghosts? Crop circles? God? Have you ever bought a new shampoo/mascara/body spray/car thinking it would change your life/get you the person of your dreams? We are bombarded with information, ideas, views and adverts. It is impossible for us to look into all the information that is thrown at us. How can we question an expert on a complex issue when we are not experts ourselves? Do we just pick and choose what we like to make ourselves feel better and to suit the beliefs we have already?
Often when we are given information we are presented with snapshot of the story, somet…

Meeting with Supervisor

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This is a 'graph' of the one hour meeting I have just had with my supervisor. Fairly typical. The big drop occurred after we had a little search on Pub Med. I am now exhausted and need a large lunch to keep me going.

If you want to know more about my supervisor, she is on the fabulous Naked Scientist podcast this week, talking about medicines from Cannabis.

Wine and Grapes Will NOT Prevent Sunburn

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I was really disappointed to see this article written in The Telegraph, ' 'Drinking Wine Could Help To Stop Sunburn' this week. A really glaringly obvious example of really bad science and bad churnalism.
The article states, 'Drinking wine or eating grapes could protect you from sunburn, according to a new study that found a chemical in the fruit can limit cell damage.' Alongside this very appealing picture of a glass of wine in the sun. Nice, well then, let's all go outside and have a glass of wine in the sunshine and feel good about ourselves. Sound too good to be true? It probably is.


The article refers to a study published in Agricultural and Food Chemistry (not free access). The study tested some grape extracts (polyphenolic fractions, not wine) on some skin cells in a dish. They then exposed the cells to some UVA and UVB rays. They found that some of the extracts reduced the numbers of damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the treated vs untreated cell…

the life of science

I have been talking to friends and others about careers in science. This started me wondering about a science career. The vast majority of people I have spoken to have had to move for postdocs and jobs. Do you have to be a nomad for a few years before you can 'settle' (and even then you might be required to uproot yourself and move at the drop of a hat) to have a career in science? Is the only way to get a 'good' career to be prepared to go wherever the wind takes you? And how many other careers require that kind of flexibility? Is it unusual? To have a good career in anything do you need to be prepared do down tools and move on (but is it 'unusual' in other careers, whereas in science it is more the norm)? I am not talking about 6/8 months away at a time. I am talking years. If it is, this sounds like a perfect career for me. I love change. I thrive off it. I love meeting new people and seeing different places (no matter where it is). But can I do it?

I am in …

Science Communication Conference 2011

Last week I attended the British Science Association, Science Communication Conference 2011. I was granted a bursary to attend, covering transport, accommodation and conference fees - which was nice, as without it I would not have been able to go! I was really looking forward to meeting people involved in science communication across the UK (& world) and some of the people I have spoken to through email & twitter. Creating networks when you are based so far away from the main source of the action can be difficult, social media does help enormously - but it still never beats meeting someone and having a conversation in person. The conference seemed the perfect opportunity to do this. So, off I went to London town with a bag full of Au magazines to share. I was really pleasantly surprised to find that quite a number of people had already come across the magazine and were interested in the project. That made conversation easy! As I was at the conference on my own I had no option …

Launching a Magazine

Blogging has taken a back seat recently, whilst I along with a team of others at the University of Aberdeen launched a new science themed magazine.

I think I am in a very lucky position here at the University of Aberdeen. I mentioned this idea of a science magazine last September to the public engagement team and since then they have very kindly sent anything they came across (including people, interviews, events, stories) in my direction. I organised a meeting with 5 others that had mentioned creating a science magazine to the public engagement team. We met, clicked and then set on a mission to create the magazine. Without working as a team this would have been impossible.

We have written stories that we think are interesting, but the science is not over-hyped. We do not shout about the latest cure for cancer, but we discuss how compounds in the cannabis plant are being tested for their therapeutic potential. We do not say there is life on Mars but we do talk about how we are explor…

Why I dislike the term Scientist

What does the word 'scientist' mean? Really mean? Who can call themselves a ‘scientist’? Someone who studied a 'science' subject at degree level? But what if they became a HR manager and worked in a non 'sciency' company, are they still a scientist? Do you need to have a science PhD to be called a scientist? Or be actively doing science research? But what about all the people that work in science without 'sciency' qualifications? Are they still scientists?

Apparently the word scientist was coined by William Whewell in 1834 at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, to describe a group of people all studying different scientific disciplines (I have to admit, I haven't found any solid sources for this but you can read more about the term scientist here). The word scientist can be used by anyone. The description of someone as a scientist in my view is pretty meaningless; it tells you nothing about the person. I think there…

The Skeptic Guide

I am compiling a list of interesting skeptic people/events/blogs to post on the Aberdeen Skeptics in The Pub Facebook site. I am giving a talk about other Skeptic groups, activism and the role of Skeptics in The Pub (if there is one) for our next event.  A lot of the people that come to Aberdeen Skeptics in the Pub are not on Twitter and I wanted to give out a list of skeptics 'things'. This is what I have so far - please help me grow the list!
The Skeptic Guide:
www.skeptic.org.uk Home of The Skeptic (magazine), blog, skeptic news & events (lists all Skeptics in the Pubs in the UK and abroad)

Scotland:
There are Skeptic events in Dundee (http://dundee.skepticsinthepub.org/), Glasgow (http://glasgow.skepticsinthepub.org/) and Edinburgh (http://edinburgh.skepticsinthepub.org// also http://www.thetwentyfirstfloor.com/ for independent skeptical news and commentary in Scotland.

Aberdeen Skeptics in The Pub - Follow the Facebook page for events and news.

Twitter: Twitter is a grea…

Lab Politics and Post-it Notes (Not quite I Lick My Cheese)

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In a shared house or flat, notes are often left to pass on information, claim ownership, or discourage others from eating your food (see I Lick My Cheese, a brilliant book). In a communal lab, notes are also left to offer instructions as to how the lab should run, pass on info, claim ownership and discourage others from nicking your stuff.

I use a communal tissue culture lab where most people use the lab for limited amounts of time (30mins or so) to culture their cells and then they go elsewhere to do their experiments. My experiments involve me spending longer periods of time in the tissue culture hood (HOURS). On my own. It is mind numbingly boring. So we introduced a radio. A lot of labs have radios, this is not unusual (the lab next door has a radio, usually on so loud that we can hear the bass thudding through the wall, 'the party lab').

I didn't think it was a big deal, everyone in the tissue culture lab is pretty friendly and says hello to each other. The protocols…

'Complementary Therapies Help Boost Fertility' a truely awful article from the Daily Mail

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I haven't been rattled by a news story for quite a while. This afternoon I came across this little beauty from (yes you guessed it) The Daily Mail, written by Naomi Coleman.

'Complementary therapies help boost fertility' - The title seems innocuous enough. The article itself is AWFUL the content is absolute rubbish and the advice given is absolute rubbish. 
The first line, "Scientific evidence shows that a range of alternative therapies from acupuncture and homeopathy to nutrition and hypnotherapy can help boost fertility." -Oh really, does the scientific evidence say that? Homeopathy you say? REALLY?
Queue quote from Zita West (Kate Winslet's midwife), complementary therapies can encourage conception by 'bringing the body back into balance'. I can understand that some therapies may reduce stress and aid relaxation and therefore could help someone get pregnant. Her website however, http://www.zitawest.com/ does support and sell various supplements (in…