Article Archive for June 2009

“Boys Hardwired to Like Trucks”
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 30 June 2009
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Apparently truck-preference genes evolved 9900 years before real trucks

Chiropractic Dirty Tricks. What of the Repercussions?
By jdc325
Posted in syndicated on 29 June 2009
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It’s an incredible way for someone who is presumably either a medical professional (or a member of a regulatory body for medical professionals) to behave. How can these people possibly expect to be taken seriously if this is the way they respond to criticism of their making unsubstantiated claims?

Big Tobacco given just 38 years to live
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 29 June 2009
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Persistent legislation has metastasised into full-blown FDA regulation

Jesus’ blood never failed me yet
By What the hell is this?
Posted in syndicated on 28 June 2009
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It’s on the news that a priest was stopped at the exit of the Milano-Torino autostrada with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% (the legal limit in Italy is 0.05%) and had his licence taken off him. He had to call “friends and family” to come and take him home.

The priest claimed to be tee-total, except for the fact that he had celebrated four masses that day and obviously there’s wine in that. Whether there’s the amount of wine necessary to put you over the limit (or on the U.K. limit) isn’t necessarily the point. Having drunk the wine in some sort of cannibalistic cult ritual rather than in a bar with friends doesn’t make you any less dangerous on the motorway. I bet those crackers don’t help soak much of it up either.

Time for a cordon sanitaire?
By Anthony Cox
Posted in syndicated on 28 June 2009
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‘Waterless’ washing machine cleans using nylon beads
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 27 June 2009
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Hmm… Dirt not washed away, so kinda like washing your clothes in the same water over and over.

Rock Stars of (White Male) Science
By Martin
Posted in syndicated on 27 June 2009
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Seeing GQ’s Rock Stars of Science campaign for the first time gave me the same sort of instinctive reaction that I got when I saw OK Magazine’s Jade Goody Tribute Edition released before she’d actually, y’know, died; or when I boarded the train to Windsor & Eton a few nights ago to find that somebody had sprayed bright-pink vomit on the floor of the carriage. I felt disgust, repulsion and hatred, but I couldn’t immediately figure out why it bothered me so much.

The premise is pretty simple, as you’d expect from a Mens’ Magazine. Scientists do some of the coolest things in the world, yet they don’t get the recognition of their rock star peers. So why not set up a kind of weird cultural-exchange buddy system, where scientists pose with rockstars?

Except, what’s the logic here? It’s eerily reminiscent of the first days of the Blair administration in the late 90s, when a succession of rock stars were invited to Number 10 for… well nobody really knows what for. Is the rock-stariness supposed to somehow rub off on the hapless scientists? Is coolness contagious? How does standing someone next to a rock star in any way promote them or their profession?

So I spoke to some fellow writers and spent some moments in quiet contemplation of the pictures. Ah, the pictures. Here’s one of them now.

The rock star, in case you were wondering, is the one in the middle. Sheryl Crowe her name is, and she is unquestionably cool. The other two, the ones who are fawning over the guitar-wielding goddess, are the scientists. As test-tube-wielding goddess Dr. Isis notes, images like this promote rock stars, not scientists. Crowe’s expression isn’t one of respect, it’s saying: “Who are these losers, and why do they have to stand so close to me?”

In fact it’s hard to look at the picture and not imagine that you’re watching ‘first contact’ taking place between two species on some even-lower-budget version of Star Trek. Things look to be going reasonably well, but one of the suit-wearing aliens appears to have stolen the blonde alien’s guitar pick, and it’s probably only a matter of time before the phasers come out.

We get a similar effect from Seal. Here, the photographer artfully plays on racial stereotypes by having Seal pose with a menacing expression, holding the microphone cable as though he’s about to strangle somebody with it while the two clever white folk cower in the background. The one of the left bravely does an impression of Seal, with a pose that may get him further fame on a laxatives commercial.

Being serious for a moment, let’s just look at the statistics here. GQ assembled 11 scientists, and 5 rock stars. Of the rock stars, two are black, one is a woman. Of the scientists, 11 are middle-aged white males. For a campaign that wants to attract new young people into science in a country where around half of young people are women and probably nearly half are from ethnic minorities, that’s just moronic.

But, okay, you’ve got your middle-aged white guys in suits into the studio and you’re ready to take some photos that promote science. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to tell you that the scientists should be in the centre, and the rockstars should be fawning over them. I’ll repeat the words of Dr. Isis here because she’s right and I’m too lazy to bother rewriting it in my own words:

“It seems to me that if you want to have an effective campaign then what you do is put Sheryl Crow in a lab coat and take pictures of those guys teaching her to pipet or culture some cells or use a microscope. Don’t take pictures of talented, gifted scientists — scientists whose talents make them as unique and talented as the rockstars they are pictured with — trying to be musicians. Take a picture of a musician aspiring to be a scientist.”

To paraphrase Marvin the Android, it hurts to think down to the level of the guy that put these photos together.

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Ignoreland: A Refusal To Engage
By jdc325
Posted in syndicated on 26 June 2009
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I’ve been attempting to communicate with various people and institutions recently and I’ve been having a little trouble. I don’t seem to be getting responses to my emails. Let’s see if we can figure out where I’ve been going wrong.
The University of Westminster have been less than forthcoming with answers to my questions regarding the [...]

Autism and aspergers are essentially the same
By Kev
Posted in syndicated on 26 June 2009
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Say goodbye to colic the easy way!
By Dr* T
Posted in syndicated on 26 June 2009
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Unclean, Unclean!
By jaycueaitch
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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[BPSDB]
The H1N1 pandemic seems to have caused over-reaction in some quarters. A colleague on a training course was greeted with all the enthusiasm one would expect for a leper turning up at a society wedding.
Background: two students and one member of staff at my workplace have swine flu. My colleague was attending a residential training [...]

Another happy customer
By What the hell is this?
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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BPSDB There’s a plethora of a letter at A Case of Chiropractic Manipulation Immediately Relieving Depression with Chronic Pain:

Patient A, a 41-year-old Taiwanese male, suffered from intermittent dysthymia which presented with minor low mood, insomnia, anxiety, chest tightness, back pain, and subjectively mild occupational difficulty… patient A received a single chiropractic spinal manipulation. The chiropractor noticed a minor deformity in the thoracic spine, and a traction technique was administered. He experienced immediate relief from back pain. The following day he reported complete relief of chest tightness, dysthymia, fatigue, and insomnia, with HAM-D, TDQ, and VAS scores of 0 for all.

“No, no, I’m fine now, no need to do any more chiropractic on me, I’ll be off then…”

Reminds me slightly of various Blue Jam sketches. (Meanwhile, proper holistic back-pain suggestions.)

GCC and the Privy Council
By jdc325
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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Having read on David Colquhoun’s blog that the GCC wanted to “waive the rules” regarding complaints, I noted a suggestion that those not in favour of the GCC doing so contact the Privy Council. I did so, concentrating on my opinion of the GCC’s ability to provide accurate and meaningful definitions. Since then, I have [...]

Rethinking Autism
By Sullivan
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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FSA?s Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey: Some Snippets
By carriesb
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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The Eating within recommended dietary guidelines and on a budget project is having some difficulties. Not, oddly, on the actual shopping, cooking or budgeting fronts but the dietary analysis that I want to perform. On the upside, I have located some useful figures relating to low income diet, nutrient intake and food spend budgets.
I have [...]

How Heavy Is The Earth?
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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Epic fail from a website that calls itself “Science Facts”

Science watchdog returns to Westminster
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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Today the motion for creating a dedicated committee to oversee science policy across Government was discussed in Parliament. Good news, we’re getting it back. The Campaign for Science & Engineering had this to say:

The Campaign for Science & Engineering (CaSE) warmly welcomed the House of Commons’ decision to establish the Science and Technology Committee. CaSE lobbied for it to be established following the merger of DIUS and BIS. In today’s debate Phil Willis MP commended CaSE’s efforts to bring back the Science and Technology Committee.
Commenting Nick Dusic, CaSE’s Director, said:

It is great news that the Science and Technology Committee will be able to investigate science and engineering issues that cut right across government, including the science budget.
Today’s decision showed that there is strong support for proper scrutiny of science and engineering within Parliament. It is critical that future changes to government do not result in the abolition of the Science and Technology Committee. Today’s decision corrects the mistake made in 2007 of abolishing the Committee.
I look forward to working with the Science and Technology Committee in scrutinising the Government’s science policies.

The Committee will be able to conduct wide-ranging inquiries, covering the full scope of science policy and related matters including the science budget.

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UN backs off hard line on drug crimes
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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Portugal experiment on decriminalisation is a success

More make-believe from the University of Westminster. This time it?s Naturopathy
By David Colquhoun
Posted in syndicated on 25 June 2009
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Here is a short break from the astonishing festival of chiropractic that has followed the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) v Simon Singh defamation case, and the absurd NICE guidance on low back pain.

Singh’s statement already has over 10000 signatories, many very distinguished, Sign it now if you haven’t already. And getting on for 600 [...]

US Supreme Court Ruling on Special Education
By Sullivan
Posted in syndicated on 24 June 2009
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Man Bites Dog! Or: Daily Mail Manage Fairly Accurate Headline. Eventually.
By jdc325
Posted in syndicated on 24 June 2009
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I complained to the Daily Mail some time ago about some misleading headlines. They failed to respond. I then complained to the PCC. Here’s what happened…

First look at the machines of Tim Burton’s new film 9
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 24 June 2009
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9, a new animated feature produced by Tim Burton and directed by Shane Acker, comes out in September (09/09/09, naturally). Details are sketchy, but it’s safe to say in the world of 9, something has gone horribly wrong, the world has been destroyed, and the only survivors are some cute little sack people and an army of murderous machines. One can’t help but think that a few squiddies from the Matrix somehow tunnelled into Little Big Planet.

Anyway, it tickles my fancy, if only because it checks the requisite boxes of “post apocalyptic dystopia” and “technopunk machinery”. Which is good, because some of the people behind the film have been nice enough to send me these ludicrously high res images of the Fabricator, a factory robot with misfiring synapses that has been building the war machines. Click on the pictures below for full size images - they really are massive.

Here’s the beast!

The above image is a down scaled crop from this texture plan:

Underneath the texturing are the bones of the machine, as lovingly illustrated in this artwork:

This is just a detail from the above graphic, and yet it’s big enough that I could make it into a desktop wallpaper, just for you:

I’ve also been given an exclusive piece of artwork showing 3 and 4, two of the small “stitch punks” at the centre of the film’s plot. The PR bumf says:

Communicating visually, not verbally, 3 and 4 are the scholarly twins who voraciously catalogue everything they can see and find, recording and building a massive database for the group of the world that surrounds them and the history that led up to their creation.

To which producer Tim Burton adds:

“3 and 4 go back to the original experience of non-speaking characters. I think it works for them, it makes them different from the others, and I can relate to those characters because I didn’t speak when I was a child either.”

Err, okay Tim. Anyway, click on the below image to see the full artwork. It will be available as a collectible card, my sources tell me that San Diego’s Comic-Con 09 would be a good place to start looking for them, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Stay tuned - if you like these images I’m sure I’ll be able to get you some more.

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Nature donates a page to Simon Singh campaign
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 24 June 2009
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simonsingh.pngNews just in: tomorrow’s issue of Nature will feature a full page ad donated by the magazine asking people to sign up to the campaign to keep libel laws out of science. Managed by Sense About Science, the petition has already collected over 12,000 signatures, from world-renowned scientists and journalists to informed and passionate members of the public. If you haven’t done so already, visit the website and show your support. You can also purchase badges and t-shirts, money raised from these will go toward a legal fund for others facing libel attacks.

sas-libel-1.gif

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s report on press freedom, privacy and libel will be published in July, and the staff at Sense About Science are working hard to ensure the authors give consideration to this case and the consequences of Britain’s grossly punitive libel laws.

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What do bibliometrics actually add to research evaluation?
By Paul Wilson
Posted in syndicated on 24 June 2009
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Mozambique show how to regulate homeopathy in Africa
By gimpy
Posted in syndicated on 24 June 2009
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Via the quackometer’s twitterfeed, a story on the allAfrica news aggregation site suggests that the government of Mozambique are responding in a thoroughly sensible manner to alternative medicine practitioners, including homeopaths.
Health Minister Ivo Garrido argues that practitioners were operating in a ‘legal vacuum’ and thus it was necessary to regulate them by law.  One possible [...]

The Hidden Towers of Nevada
By SciencePunk
Posted in syndicated on 24 June 2009
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Thanks to the Deputy Dog blog for unveiling these awesome hidden towers of Nevada:

tower.jpg

Although they look like retro-futurist prefab apartments, the structures are actually the water intake towers for the Hoover Dam’s hydro-electric power station. The images were taken during the construction of the dam, and the towers are now mostly submerged in water. See the Deputy Dog blog for more images.

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It’s new! It’s spam! It’s revitaPOP: The MB12 Lollipop
By Sullivan
Posted in syndicated on 23 June 2009
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Patrick Holford Claims More People Die, Prematurely, From Cardiovascular Disease Than Actually Die, Prematurely, From All Causes
By dvnutrix
Posted in syndicated on 23 June 2009
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Patrick Holford persists in exaggerating the number of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease by approx. 500%. He also claims that doctors are uninterested in diet and lifestyle interventions. We discuss his errors in some detail.