Monday, 14 December 2009
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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Redbrick Features: COMMENT on science
How to live to 100
THIS week I read a headline that caught my eye: “Scientists identify gene that can help you live to 100”. Now that, I decided, sounds interesting. I wouldn’t mind a gene like that.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
I SPENT much of Friday looking down a microscope, thanking the good monk Mendel for his laws of genetics and the relative ease with which I can discover many interesting things. I divided hundreds of flies by phenotype (and, because of the brilliance of balancer chromosomes, by genotype also) so that I could set up genetic crosses that will, with any luck, start to produce some results by Christmas. In order to keep up my attention throughout, the fly room was graced by the sound of BBC Radio 4, from 9am through to 7pm (with a brief change of station at 5pm when I decided I didn't need to hear the same news a fourth time). There was Desert Island Discs with Anthony Julius (I liked his choices of Chicago and little Stevie Wonder). There was the final reading of the excellent book of the week, The Magnetic North by Sara Wheeler. I wandered off through Woman's Hour but came back in time for The Richest Man in Britain, The Archers and Gardener's Question Time. I almost felt intellectual by the end of the day.
What surprised me, however, were the frequent referrals of listeners to Radio 4's long wave output. I knew that this was where the cricket commentary is often relayed, but I knew of no other purpose for it. Nor, for that matter, do I know of any shop that sells long wave radios anymore. Why do the BBC still broadcast on something the majority of people can no longer receive?
Saturday, 7 November 2009
Thursday, 29 October 2009
I FIND that I have to explain, fairly frequently, what it is that I am doing in PhDland. This is fantastic: it is great that people are interested. But just as frequently, people ask me why. More specifically, they ask to what end am I conducting my experiment? What benefit does it have for people?
This question troubles me and I think it troubles many scientists. Look at enough journal papers, no matter how disparate, and you will notice a trend: the final paragraph of the discussion of many, many papers often seems to have a loosely worded, research council-pleasing vague suggestion that the study in question might, in some way, be applied to humans. Search for many scientific terms, even highly specialist and unrelated terms, and chances are you'll come across something that mentions Parkinson's disease or cancer, often, perhaps, because the authors feel they have to. Newspapers do it too. There'll be a study in mice or flies and, sooner or later, the journalist will give in to temptation or the standard framework of a science report and bring humans into the picture. It is mightily tempting and I've been there myself. But do scientists really have a benefit to mankind in mind? More importantly, does their study need to benefit mankind to be justified?
Friday, 2 October 2009
From Malcolm Coles:
"I've pointed out that any concerned parents searching Google for information on the cervical cancer jab (in the tragic wake of a schoolgirl's death) see a mass of negative and inaccurate information linking the girl's death to the vaccine.
It turns out she died of an unrelated tumour [read what really happened here- ed]. But Google's results will give parents second thoughts about letting their daughters be vaccinated, even though the injection will save 00s of lives a year".If you're looking for information regarding cervical cancer vaccine, please visit the NHS website.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
The article is called The EU Wants Your Five Year Old To Have An Abortion, Part Two (the first part is on a different topic and is an aside). It focuses on soon-to-be-published UNESCO guidelines on sex education, and their irresponsible coverage in certain media outlets and respected politicians. Phil lives in London and has recently been working for the Hoja Project, which he helped to set up, in Songea, Tanzania. He cares deeply about issues relating to the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people. His ongoing reports and projects can be followed at his blog, the blog with the woofing dog, and the Hoja Project news page.
Click here to read The EU Wants Your Five Year Old To Have An Abortion, Part Two.