Issue 6

Issue 6

From the editors: 
This issue of EUSci is published at an important and exciting time for science in the UK. The funding cutbacks as a result of the recession, the looming election, the rising scepticism on climate change and Simon Singh’s libel reform campaign have all put science back on the political agenda. This is why we’ve decided to explore the link between science and policy in this issue’s focus section. When it affects so much of our everyday lives - from battling the effects of climate change to dealing with potential disease epidemics - informed policy decisions need to be based on sound science. In this focus we examine some of these topics and talk to some of the people involved in getting science heard by policy makers. We are also fortunate to have a science communicator, who has personally felt the negative effects of the UK’s stifling libel laws, contribute our guest editorial for this issue; Simon Singh has been fighting a libel case in the English courts brought on by the British Chiropractic Association for doing nothing more than opening a healthy scientific debate on the merits of their methods. On a more positive note, April sees the Edinburgh International Science Festival in full swing again and we are happy to be able to bring you exclusive coverage from some of their speakers and events in a EUSci podcast special. The changes to our layout and rebranding in the last issue have been very well received, and we’ve continued this by bringing about a few changes to our regulars section in this issue. We hope that the style of the magazine continues to develop and make a name for itself as the editorial reigns of EUSci are passed on for the next issue.
From the president: 
 So it goes. Following three issues, five seminar events, a sci-fi contest, numerous podcasts and many more nights in the pub, my time as President comes to a close. Over this time, more people have joined us to tell Edinburgh about cool science. Our successes have been numerous over the past year, and a lot of it is down to the many volunteers who assist in all aspects of the society. A huge thank you goes out to all our supporters who helped EUSci in any role during the previous twelve months, and a hearty ‘good luck’ to those taking up new positions. Nevertheless we are always looking for new ideas for society events and ways of keeping scientists entertained! If you fancy getting involved in society matters, why not drop an email to euscimag@googlemail.com and get stuck in? Anyway, I hope you enjoy the issue.

Study draws sensational conclusion – hysteria ensues

“Health warning: exercise makes you fat”

“Social websites harm children’s brains”

“Jab as deadly as the cancer”

“Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped”

If you’re anything like me (and since you’re reading a science magazine I’m going to assume that you are at least a bit of a science nerd), then these are the sort of attention-grabbing and woefully inaccurate headlines that make you audibly grind your teeth every time you see them. Unfortunately, they are by no means rare. The above are just a drop in the ocean of misleading headlines and downright dodgy science stories that were forced upon the masses last year. Who writes these things, and why? It’s painfully obvious to the informed observer that these stories are rubbish, yet they persist. Read more »

Simon Singh: On libel reform

Simon Singh is a British science writer, author of, among others, Fermat’s Last !eorem, Big Bang, and most recently Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial, authored with Edzard Ernst. Simon started his career as physicist, earning a PhD in particle phyics from the University of Cambridge, having worked at CERN in Geneva. His popular science career has included a number of TV and radio documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. Simon’s continuing court case with the British Chiropractic Association has been the focus of considerable media interest, and has served as the catalyst for change in Britain’s notorious libel system. Read more »

AR You Ready for This?

What do you get if you take the internet revolution, throw in GPS and digital compass technology, and add some futuristic display technology? In the not-too-distant future, the answer may be 'terminator vision'.

Let's face it, virtual reality was a bit of a let-down. Convincing VR technology has yet to hit the consumer market despite the teasing of science fiction from Star Trek, through to Red Dwarf' and The Matrix. Those headache and neck ache-inducing headsets from the 80s and 90s just don't cut the mustard, and the Trekkies' long wait for their holodeck seems set to continue for some time. Fortunately, consolation is to be found in an emerging set of products centred on a related concept called augmented reality, or AR. Rather than replacing the world around us, AR promises to augment it by overlaying information and making interaction richer. Read more »

Science and policy

Worried whether the drug you are taking is legal? Concerned about the lack of women in science? Trying to weigh up the chances of surviving the next pandemic? Government science policy has an influence on all of us: scientist or non-scientist. Read more »

What can Science learn from Art?

We are Scientists; we know how we think...but how do those creative, emotive, paint-splattering artists think? To try to understand, I sat down with Queen’s Medical Research Institute’s artist in residence since July last year - Mark Eischeid.

During his residency he produced two main pieces of art. The first is a “series of drawings with coloured pencil,” choosing three locations within the building and, looking outside, he sketched the colours he saw. Eischeid drew these sampled landscapes at various times of the day to record the change in colour. “It was meant to symbolise the outward looking nature of the work that goes on at QMRI. What goes on here doesn't stop here but always has to be translated outward to the general population,” Eischeid states. Read more »

Getting science heard by government

The crucial link between science and policy is well understood by Scotland’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Anne Glover. According to the Scottish Science website, her job is to further enhance Scotland’s reputation as a science nation, which she seems more than qualified to do given her achievements to date.

Professor Glover holds the Personal Chair of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen and has honorary positions at the Rowett and Macaulay Institutes. She is also an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a member of the Natural Environment Research Council and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Most of her academic career has been spent at the University of Aberdeen where she has an active research group pursuing a variety of areas. Read more »

Dr Victoria Martin

Dr. Victoria Martin completed both her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh. After a postdoctoral position at Northwest University in the US she returned to Edinburgh as a researcher and lecturer in Particle Physics at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics. Most recently she has, along with a team of other scientists and students from Edinburgh, become involved in the ATLAS experiment at the LHC, searching for the elusive Higgs boson. Read more »

What is our government on?

In October 2009, Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), was sacked by home secretary Alan Johnson. Professor Nutt had long been outspoken in his criticism of the government's approach to drugs, famously criticising the decision to re-classify cannabis back to class B from class C, against the ACMD's advice. Nutt was sacked ostensibly because he had caused “confusion between scientific advice and policy”. Controversy ensued, with many in the scientific community pointing out that the comments were made in professional arenas, separate from the Professor's advisory role. The situation raises questions about the influence of scientific advice on government drug policy. How exactly does the government make decisions regarding drug safety and classification in the UK? To what extent is scientific advice heeded? Read more »

Mad science

Reto U. Schneider is a former science journalist who came across a number of weird and wonderful experiments in the history of science that he was not allowed to write about in his magazine. He never forgot those and, in 2004, compiled them into Mad Science; a tongue-in-cheek romp through 700 years of the ingenious, the misguided and the downright odd. Read more »

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