Author Profile:  

Biography »

Publications »

Administering a rebuke
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 14 December 2013
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust has a small whinge. As I’ve been struck by one of the annoying Winter viruses, and every bit of me is aching, I have been exempted today from fatherly duties taking Aust Jr to play football (soccer for any US readers). I shall take the opportunity to post a small grumble […]

Plants make chemicals too.
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 28 July 2013
Stats: and Comments Off

It’s been a long (very long!) blogging hiatus for me. Whilst there are a large number of contributing reasons – more work at the Univ, kids getting older and requiring less sleep (and thus more keeping an eye on and even the occasional bit of help with homework), new hobbies (blog and work-unrelated) etc.etc. – […]

(Y)ear-ily quiet
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 31 December 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

It’s been a considerable while since I posted here (even by my laggard-ly standards), so I thought I would use the end of the year – and a real kidney stone of a year it’s been, all in all – to reassure any remaining loyal readers* that I have not joined the choir invisible, but [...]

The sky fell on me head
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 23 September 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

The ‘bits of satellite might fall on your head’ story that has been all over the news this week (see e.g. the Telegraph here) has provided a nice chance for people to get the wrong end of the statistical stick. For instance, as I was having the last of my breakfast this morning I heard [...]

White coats, white lies? Or black marks?
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 7 August 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust ponders what one should do about students who are ‘economical with the actualité’. ——————————————————————————- One of my scientific internet friends, Steve Caplan, was blogging a week to two back about a student in a lab he worked in who was, shall we say, less than truthful about their actions. Steve says at [...]

If I were a cartoonist
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 1 July 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust wishes he could draw, and muses on the changing appearance of the British “-ologist”. A recent conversation with one of my twitter readers, postdoctoral researcher, occasional blogger and one-time co-worker dbaptista, chanced upon the topic of cartoons. Dr Aust has always been fond of cartoons, and I have (another)  long backburner-ed [...]

Be Careful What You Wish For ? Even in Jest
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

As we never tire of repeating here, one of the problems with satire is that you regularly find yourself dealing with reality so surreal that a satirical take on it would be … indistinguishable from the real thing. I think I would like to christen this ‘Lehrer’s Paradox’*. There is also a sub-category of this, [...]

Wanted ? dedicated or alive
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 18 June 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which we ponder the language of advertisements for University science jobs.. I was amused recently to see a Tweet from one of my friends in the scientific blogosphere, Stephen Curry (do check out his excellent Reciprocal Space blog), saying that he was: ‘arguing’ – I presume with his HR Department – ‘to be allowed to [...]

If you?re not part of the solution, you?ve clearly precipitated something.
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 10 June 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust stalls for time. Again. It has now been two full months since anything new has appeared here. Sorry. Like many bloggers in such a situation, I feel a bit, well, guilty. As usual it is hard to pinpoint an exact reason for the barren spell – well, other than that I [...]

Spam spam spam
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 11 April 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

If one maintains a blog, one gets, inevitably, a lot of spam. No joke. The ratio of spam comments to real ones for this blog, over its three and a half years of operation, is something like 15 to 1. And if one maintains a blog over a reasonable period of time – like three [...]

Of slime and childish curiosity
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 26 March 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust ponders slime. And scientific tendencies. Reproduced from the wonderful xkcd.com, the comic strip that regularly captures the spirit and the reality of science Last weekend the Aust entourage, including Junior Aust (aged six-and-a bit-well-nearly-seven-in-a-few-months) visited this event at one of the nearby museums, run by the people from Manchester University’s Life [...]

Holding back the tide ? it?s alkaline, by the way
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 5 March 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust tries to keep things in proportion A common feeling of those who write about pseudoscience is that one is a bit like King Canute, the man who was supposed to have ordered the waves to retreat. For instance, for all that has been written about what a total con water ionizers [...]

Take a deep breath
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 29 January 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust hails a vintage piece of Corporate-balls. One of the occasional pleasures of blogging is the unexpected emails you get offering tip-offs or material, relating to something you have blogged about. For instance, my friend David Colquhoun, having written extensively about bogus B.Sc. degrees in Unreality, often gets plain-brown-envelope anonymous deliveries of [...]

Ant-acid
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 23 January 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust finds some black humour on the Internet. As redundancies loom in various parts of the University sector, I have to remind myself that we here in UK Universities PLC are still, despite an expanding cadre of managerial droids, comparatively “under-managed” compared to many sectors of the economy. No, really. Well, all [...]

Getting the bird
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 12 January 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust ponders language and its obscurities. One of Dr Aust’s current nightly rituals is reading a bedtime story to one, or both, children. This evening we were reading a story – one of this charming series – which contained the word: “budgerigar” This reminded Dr Aust of an event, over a dozen [...]

In one (y)ear and out the other
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 1 January 2011
Stats: and Comments Off

Happy New Year! And just to let you know: I shall refrain from posting an end of year round-up. I will however, make some predictions for this time next year – in case I am doing a round-up post then. -  We will all be a year older (On the other hand, considering the alternatives….) [...]

Concentration ? it?s not what you think
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 9 December 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which we get a glimpse of the future. And it isn’t very comforting. Those who have been reading here recently will remember that the last post began: “In Universities up and down the UK, University managers are considering the implications of the Government’s funding cuts.” And I also said: “…most Universities are planning for [...]

Universities need arts as well as science
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 7 December 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust notes that scientists, on the whole, do not think that Universities should only have science in them. In Universities up and down the UK, University managers are considering the implications of the Government’s funding cuts. All right all right… I KNOW we haven’t had the Parliamentary vote on raising tuition fees [...]

Fox?Chicken Coop.. Contd
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 4 December 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust  is still convinced that you couldn’t make it up.  Though there is disagreement as to whether satire is dead, is alive but in intensive care, or has left the building. Well… it has been a bit silent on the blog here recently, mainly because I have been feeling, as I said [...]

Satire is dead. Have a burger.
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 13 November 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

One of my satirical and musical heroes, the great Tom Lehrer, was famously quoted as saying that political satire died the day Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I am having something of a similar moment today. This time last week I was reading in the British Medical Journal that 17% – around [...]

Remembering
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 11 November 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

Dr Aust often wears a standard red poppy for Remembrance Day. Though if white poppies were easier to find I might be tempted to wear both together, as discussed here. When I wrote at somewhat greater length about Remembrance Day last year, I said (actually in the comments): “I think most people who stop for [...]

The Mass Libel Reform Blog – Fight for Free Speech!
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 10 November 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

Dr Aust, in common with many far better known bloggers, is delighted to host the following, written by scientific libel hero Simon Singh. ——————————————————————– “This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile [...]

Anecdata ? mine good, yours LIES
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 5 November 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

This post is loosely inspired by the fact that some of the US sceptical bloggers, led by surgeon/blogger Orac and the good folks at Science-Based Medicine, have declared this week “Vaccine Awareness Week” (in a good way).  They were galvanised into doing this by some of the usual anti-vaccine suspects who had also declared Nov 1-6… [...]

Who pays for University degrees?
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 11 October 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust looks forward (or more likely doesn’t) to a rather uncertain future. In among all the heart-warming pro-science activism on display through the fortnight that the wonderful Science Is Vital campaign has been going, there has been something else hovering in the background, at least for UK scientists in academic posts in [...]

Podcast plug ? Dr Aust live (ish)
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 30 September 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust does some heavy breathing into a headset. A week or so back, thanks to the wonders of internet-based communication technology (aka Skype) I joined the guys from Greater Manchester Skeptics for their podcast Just Skeptics (Episode 12, apparently). It is now out – if you’re interested, you can listen to it [...]

It?s three years of Spleen ? anyone still out there?
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 23 September 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust is vaguely astonished he has kept going this long – and asks readers if they’d like to tell him who is (still) reading. Amazingly, it is exactly three years today since Dr Aust’s Spleen went live, and three years and a day since the first major post, titled “Patrick Holfords friend [...]

Stress, fighter pilots and medical students
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 31 August 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust offers, instead of bad science, a rather meandering anecdote.  Sorry. En route back to Britain last week from our rather damp annual holiday, I couldn’t help noticing all the media coverage of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Like all children growing up in Britain in the 60s and [...]

Spam spam spam spam? and an apology
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 30 August 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

Apologies for the long break in transmission. We headed off on our family Summer holiday on July 31st, to a place beyond the reach of broadband internet (yes, it is possible, even in Northern Europe – it is apparently all a matter of how many metres your dwelling place is away from the box where [...]

More Jenkins Junk
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 7 July 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust ponders whether Simon Jenkins makes it up as he goes along The other day I was listening to Simon Jenkins on the weekly Guardian science podcast, discussing his latest predictable tirade against the scientists, and the “Spoofjenks” reaction to it (my own little contribution is below/here). In the podcast conversation with [...]

Fifth Column
By draust
Posted in syndicated on 28 June 2010
Stats: and Comments Off

In which Dr Aust does his own little bit for “Spoof Jenkins” day. You know, there’s so much opinionated waffle on TV and in the papers these days. I mean, I love reading predictable off-the-cuff grumbling penned by overpaid middle-aged metropolitan arts grads. After all, I‘m one myself. Well, except for being an arts graduate. [...]