Wednesday, 30 July 2008

In order to balance complaints...

I've been getting some feedback form this Blog lately, which was nice. The general opinion is as follows:

"It's really funny, but way too long".

The only criticism I've received is that it's too long. Also, one person said it gave them vertigo. Seriously. I was oddly proud, but promised to address that.

I apologise for the length of my posts, it's a habit of mine. I admit that 28.3783244 % of people tell me I over-analyse things, and I tend to waffle. I don't really mind, the point of me doing this was so that I could discuss the ramifications of recent science stories. The media often reduces important stories down to the bare bones in order to meet the artificial requirements of brevity, and I think a lot of Science based news suffers for this. And the media we're exposed to today has given people such short attention spans, and I don't think it's necessarily a good thing.

There, that's my relatively brief rant over with. In the interest of fairness, here are some incredibly short commentaries, all with a science theme at least, in order to bring down the average length.

  • I have a phobia of dirty toilets, a very bad one. I can't stand to use them, and I pour copious amounts of bleach down my toilet in order to keep it hygienic. I keep hearing about the erosion of British coastal marine life and habitats and the altering pH levels of the sea. This is normally blamed on over-fishing and industrial chemical run off. However, judging by the amount of high strength alkaline I've released into the sewage system, it might be because of me. I'm sorry.
  • Scientists often mock artistic people for not understanding our field. But it works both ways. I work in a high profile Psychology building, my wife (an optometrist) works in a brand new state-of-the-art optometry teaching installation. Both of our buildings have extremely expensive art exhibits in the entrance areas. My wife's building's art (multi-million pound, by the way) is a number of sculptures made from glass beads and shapes suspended at eye level by high tension wires. The walls are white. My building has gone more post-modern, with a psychologically calculated interpretation of Dante's inferno, and the assorted monsters within. So we have transparent sculptures that normal sighted people find hard to see in a building for the visually impaired, and a recreation of hell itself in a building which hosts many people who suffer form psychological disorders. Either this is mind-bogglingly short-sighted (two puns there, neither intended) or utter genius, as it'll help us filter out those who are faking it.
  • There's a new Alzheimer's drug in development. Very good. It doesn't cure it, but it slows the progression. People still have Alzheimer's related dementia, but it takes longer to get to the point where you lose all cognitive function. Not to sound harsh, but this is possibly the only case where the characteristics of Alzheimer's make it preferable to other diseases. If there was a drug, let's say for cancer, that meant you still suffered the same hideous symptoms, but for longer, I doubt it would be as marketable.
  • In order to balance possible insensitivity from my last post, for my final year university assignment, I had to find a cure for Parkinson's. I kid you not. After conducting much research, I did find a mechanism that combined gene therapy, stem cell research and hormonal regulation that may have reduced Parkinson's to a diabetes-like illness. I got 65% for this, which I felt was a bit harsh. Obviously, I didn't have the experience, resources or wherewithal to investigate this cure further. 5 months later I went back to my project supervisor for a reference. He was gone, apparently he'd up and left one day unannounced. Almost as if he'd got his hands on something that potentially could make him rich but didn't want to tell anyone as he'd come by it by illicit means.
  • The above story is 100% true
  • Apparently, the Martian Phoenix lander has had trouble analysing the soil for ice because it's too sticky. The soil stay in the scoop and won't fall out into the analysing oven. Maybe I'm being dense about this, but didn't NASA invent Teflon? And what do we use Teflon for these days?
  • Now Bees might be used to hunt down serial killers. Are Alsatians really that hard to come by? I quite like this idea actually, the use of animals with special senses to help solve human problems is not an old one, with rats being able to sniff out tumours or wasps sensing bombs (I'll post links when I find them). But given the fact that, apparently, something mysterious is killing off the British Bee population, and now some of them are potentially being used to hunt down serial killers, I can't shake the feeling that this is going to be made into some prime time drama special one day, where a bumblebee constable goes it alone to track down the man who killed his mate/queen/hive/swarm/larvae. Maybe even a movie is possible. But I'll avoid any jokes about Bee movies. Apart from that one, obviously...
I think that'll do for now.


Chris said...

haha glad my vertigo amused you :P

You Took That Well said...

Dean, if you do not already you must read the work of a Mr Ben Goldacre ( He seeks to debunk common myths, bad journalism, miseducation and so on with basic intelligence and good referencing (swoon...).

For example:
-That cause does not necessarily equal that effect just because you want it to
-OMG, call that a peer-reviewed study?!
-Just because you have a qualification doesn't qualify you to talk comprehensively on all areas of science
-My two-year old does more representative sampling than that!
-But pray tell which kind average do you mean?
-What the *$@^ is up with brain gym? Are you people stupid?

But in a more eloquent and serious tone, naturally.

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