Sunday, 16 January 2011

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: Home of The Skeptic (magazine), blog, skeptic news & events (lists all Skeptics in the Pubs in the UK and abroad)


There are Skeptic events in Dundee (, Glasgow ( and Edinburgh ( also for independent skeptical news and commentary in Scotland.

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

Twitter is a great way of sharing ideas and for up to the minute news. People often tweet from conferences and events, so if you can't make it you can always follow what is going on. There are plenty of active skeptics on twitter, which stimulates a lot of discussion! 

Follow #sitp for general skeptic events/news/info

Follow me for tweets about Aberdeen Skeptics in the Pub (@hapsci)


QEDcon - Skeptic conference in Manchester in Feb (

Aberdeen events:

Uncaged Monkeys
: 8th May 2011 (Robin Ince, Professor Brian Cox, Dr Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh)

Word Festival: University of Aberdeen festival (May 2011)

Cafe Scientifique/Cafe Controversial/Cafe Med: Series of talks given by researchers and experts about all different areas of science.

Some interesting blogs and things:
Eu:Sci - University of Edinburgh Science magazine, some really great stories and writing, all published online.  Twitter @Eusci Ben Goldacre's Blog (also has a message board forum) Twitter: @bengoldacre

Through the Looking Glass - - A blog by Alice Bell a Senior Teaching Fellow: Science Communication at UCL (also does other science communication work). Twitter: @alicebell

The Lay Scientist - Martin Robbins writes for The Guardian Twitter: @mjrobbins

The Geek Manifesto - - Mark Henderson (Science editor at
The Times) is  writing a book about science and politics (the disconnect between the two and consequent policy failures) . It’s called The Geek Manifesto. He is looking for contributions and will be posting questions and thoughts via this blog. Twitter: @markgfh

The Welsh Boyo - - Updates from Rhys Morgan about skepticism and MMS #bleachgate. Twitter @Rhysmorgan (see also @superwooduo for Rhys podcast) 

Gimpy's blog - 'inane witterings and badscience' from 'gimpy' sometimes a little controversial, but good. Twitter @gimpyblog

Cardiff SITP organisers blog at and

Science, reason & critical thinking: Twitter: @crispian_jago

Purely a figment of your imagination: Twitter: @noodlemaz (also part of @superwooduo)

Science Punk : Twitter: @sciencepunk

Dr Petra (likes to talk about SEX) : Twitter: @DrPetraOther Twitterers worth a follow for science and skepticism @JDMoffatt, @xtaldave, @penguingalaxy, @endless_psych (The 21st Floor and Edinburgh Skeptics), @scottama (organiser of Dundee and Glasgow Skeptics), @janisbennion, @MrMMarsh (Merseyside skeptics), @scientistmags, @christheneck (birmingham skeptics), @harrison_peter and many, many more!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

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

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 for radios in labs usually run so the radio is on, but if someone wants the radio off, they either turn it off or say 'I am turning the radio off'. No biggie. Everyone understands that not everyone wants the radio on.

The radio was in the lab for a couple of days, when, out of no-where, without any warning, THIS APPEARED.

Firstly, it was not MY CHOICE of music, it was the local radio station, which is RUBBISH admittedly but there is very limited radio reception with a £5 radio from the tissue culture lab. Secondly, NO ONE had mentioned that they found the radio too loud or wanted to turn it off. I had seen others using the radio when I was not in the lab. Thirdly, the note was anonymous which annoyed me greatly. Why leave an anonymous note? It makes it impossible to discuss the issue and reach a compromise agreement.

So, I posted a reply,

This note went up in the morning, by the afternoon it had vanished. No response. We continued to use the radio. Two weeks later, this happened...

Oh look, it is the radio. WITHOUT A POWER CORD. SOMEONE TOOK THE POWER CORD!!! We are a few months on now, there is still no sign of the power cord or the mystery note poster.... for a bunch of adults to behave in this way (there were no undergrad students around at the time) is absolutely ridiculous. I am pretty sure that this is not an isolated experience. Working in a lab can be like living with people at times (who forgot to do their washing up?!) Please share any stories you have that are along these lines!  For further amusement I am posting these notes, which are also found in that same lab.

To the Enthusiastic Chloros user -

There really are NO PRIZES in this lab:

THERE IS EVEN A NOTE ON THE BIN (notice how it is being ignored)

Sunday, 2 January 2011

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

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, does support and sell various supplements (including omega 3 & 6 capsules), various 'fertility test kits' and also has a blog. Zita West's latest blog post is about how antioxidants improve sperm quality and how her vitamin supplement could help. No link to any scientific papers or where to find further information.  I did a quick search myself, but I am at home and do not have access to journals and therefore don't want to pass any view from the few I could read in full. If anyone has more information about this area, please share! I am interested to know more and I will have a look when I am able to access scientific journals.

Back to the Daily Mail, the article goes on to 'their guide to homeopathy'. Homeopathic remedies are diluted stuff. Fair enough. 'Practitioners claim homeopathic remedies can help women with a variety of fertility problems from blocked tubes and endometriosis to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).' Well the 'Practitioners' may claim that, but it is a load of rubbish. According to Dr Bob Lekridge (who is a real doctor and practiced as a GP) from Glasgow's homeopathic hospital, folliculinum may help kick start the reproductive system. RUBBISH. Folliculinum is made from Oestrone, a synthetic form of oestrogen (apparently, according to the homeopaths, the only link I could find on it). Oestrone (or E1) in my eyes is a perfectly naturally occurring oestrogen, secreted from adipose tissue (fat tissue) and the ovaries. It is the primary oestrogen in post-menopausal women, so it isn't synthetic. Regardless, the 'remedy' involves diluting it millions of times so it isn't going to do anything at all and there is no evidence to support that it does. 

The next question from the Daily Mail, 'Is it effective?' Ooh, promising here, are they going to question the evidence?! No. 'There is a strong body of evidence to show that homeopathy aids fertility. A German clinical trial showed twice as many women taking daily doses of the herb agnus castus fell pregnant compared to those not taking the drug. In another German study more than half of women with fertility problems experienced improved ovulation or pregnancy after taking a homeopathic remedy.' 

Oh, never mind, they are talking about something completely different to Folliculinum here. The herb agnus castus is NOT A HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY, it is not diluted, it is a HERB. So, about the 'other Germany study', which study? Which homeopathic remedy did they take? No information provided. 

The rest of the article is about acupuncture, the evidence for acupuncture was all supported by more unnamed German studies (is the author German or something?!) 

This article really is poor and provides poor information to people who are trying to have children. Unfortunately the Daily Mail website does not let you comment on the article, so I cannot share my views on their website. 

People are praying on the fact that sometimes there is no medical solution to infertility and that budding parents will do anything they can (and go to many lengths) to boost their chances of getting pregnant in order to make money. Folliculinum is also being 'prescribed' along with many other homeopathic remedies to help women with problems going through the menopause and for other hormonal problems. Although Folliculinum doesn't appear to be harmful (if it is just a sugar pill), it is a waste of time and money.  The Daily Mail through it's bad journalism isn't helping wannabe parents in their quest. 

*picture pinched from -

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