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 expl

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 ther

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) Scotland: 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. Twi

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 proto

'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 vario

Legal Highs - a few thoughts

Legal highs have been splashed all over the news recently, but what are they? Are they actually legal? Does that mean they are safe? The expression ‘legal highs’ is not a new term, all it means is that the active compound in the drugs is not a controlled substance. Les Iverson, a retired pharmacology professor and chairman for the Government Advisory Council on the misuse of drugs recently presented a lecture titled, ‘Can we control legal highs?’ at the University of Aberdeen for the opening of the new Kosterlitz research centre. His definition for ‘Legal highs’ was, “[they are] defined as psychoactive substances obtained legally or by diversion from medical use [they], are not a new phenomenon. We are all aware of solvent misuse, nitrous oxide, party poppers and 'magic mushrooms'”. The new wave of ‘Legal highs’ that have been plastered across the media over the past few months are mostly based on mimicking the effects of well known illegal drugs such as ecstasy. Some are h

Cooking -art or science?

Firstly - a quick plug of my website blog - a blog about life as a PhD student and some advice/tips and experiences which is now up and running.  I am sat here, watching Masterchef. Feeling very hungry. On Friday I am going to the BBC Good Food show in Glasgow and I am VERY excited. I LOVE food. I love eating, cooking and playing. I have often thought to myself that doing experiments is quite similar to cooking - sometimes following recipes and sometimes going off the wall - sometimes being successful (and sometimes not). Equipment can play a large part in the success of an experiment/cake (my oven does not distribute heat evenly and therefore I always create wonky cakes). There is an awful lot of money spent on research into food - how to make food taste better, the science behind what we taste. Just recently there was a report on why plane food always tastes rubbish (apparently due to the high noise levels). Heston Blumenthal as made a good fortune from mixing 'sc