Issue 6

Swine flu policy

In spring 2009, an influenza (flu) strain commonly known as ‘swine flu’, emerged in Mexico. The strain is thought to have incubated and originated in pigs (hence the name) and is composed of genes from avian, human and pre-existing swine flu viruses. It spread worldwide and, in June, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared swine flu a pandemic.

As the virus outbreak got underway, the UK government began preparations for the pandemic were it to reach Britain. So, how did they come up with the policy? Read more »

Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex

Does a book called Bonk, a front cover featuring drawings of copulating couples and a fetching motif based on the tessellation of male gonads make for a voyeuristic read? The author Mary Roach certainly has an eye for the provocative, with a previous book entitled Stiff that looked at the sometimes controversial use of dead bodies in scientific studies. Bonk continues in the same vein, with chapters entitled “Dating the Penis Camera: Can women find happiness with a machine?”, and “The Upsuck Chronicles”, as well as an extensive discussion on the ontology of the G-spot (Listen to EUSci podcast episode 22 for the latest on the search). Read more »

A fine balance

In 1903, Marie Sklodowska Curie won the Nobel Prize for Physics. Since then, only 3% of all Nobel Prize winners across the three science categories have been female (with Dr. Curie leading the way with a further Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911). These statistics highlight the continuing gender imbalance in science; but what is causing the underrepresentation of women at higher levels of the career ladder? Why is it even important? Is anyone doing anything about it?

Encouraging women to both stay in and come back to science makes the scientific workforce in the UK stronger and more varied. This in turn affects our global competitiveness in science and innovation; the women leaving science are highly skilled and have spent many years training and learning, often toiling for a PhD in a highly specialised subject area. They are a valuable resource in the labour market. Read more »

Dr Hypothesis (Issue 6)

Dear Dr Hypothesis

I have a simple question. I’m just getting over a nasty cold and was wondering why you get hot even if you have a cold?

Feverish Fred Read more »

Careers in science policy

When it comes to influencing government policy, science has two avenues through which it can reach the right ears. One is by having skilled science consultants report on the current state of the research. The other is by sounding out public attitudes towards science issues. In both areas, skilled scientists are needed, but what is it like to build a career in science policy?

Dr Suzanne King is the director of People Science & Policy, a small consultancy based in London. The topics her firm has tackled range from everyday perceptions of physics and synthetic biology to the public's understanding of climate change and willingness to use environmentally friendly transport. Read more »

Like killing mice

I, Benedict Michael Matthew Hume, Inspector, first class, of the XIXth Moral Enforcement Unit and Inquisition (Electronic Atrocities Division), confirm before almighty God that what follows is a true and accurate account of the events of January the 27th 2110, in my precinct, the city of Edinburgh.

I arrived at Niddry Street at 3.25pm, thirty minutes after receiving the call from Sergeant MacNeil, who greeted me at the cordoned-off area and presented me with a torch and dust mask.

“Dark in there?” I asked him idly.

“Dusty, too,” he said, sneering slightly. “Sir.”

I let it slide, took the torch from him without comment. “What’s all the fuss about, MacNeil? Don’t tell me you got us all out here over a slide rule and a pack of tarot cards.” Read more »

The hottest model around

To almost all scientists, climate change is a reality and one that will have a drastic impact on the Earth’s environment. The potential ramifications of it are so dire that governments from around the world now feel obliged to meet and decide how to counter the problem; although with little success so far, as the limp agreement emerging from Copenhagen has shown. Read more »

How to look like Cheryl Cole

Is your hair weak, limp, lifeless, dull and straw-like? Perhaps you need L'Oréal Paris Elvive Full Restore 5 shampoo. It’ll make you look just like Cheryl Cole (minus the hair extensions of course). It’s enriched with Pro-Keratin you know. The advert has little blobs that look like molecules flying into the hair and making it shiny. Cheryl says you’re worth it.

So does L'Oréal Paris Elvive Full Restore 5, in Cheryl’s words, “get your hair’s mojo back”? How? And why are we all so desperate to get hair like Cheryl’s? Read more »

My genome is better than your genome

Have you ever been tempted to spit into a tube and send it away to a company with an enticing scientific name, paying hundreds or even thousands of pounds for the privilege? This practice is becoming increasingly popular, as inquisitive folk with a bit of spare cash satisfy their curiosity and find out what is going on with their own DNA. We are entering an age of personal genomics. Read more »

Two of a kind

In April 1987, my aunt was rushed into hospital with unexplained abdominal pains. Later that day I was born. Coincidence? Or does the fact that this was my mother's identical twin sister have anything to do with it?

This is not the only time this sort of occurrence has happened between my mother and my aunt and there are numerous reports worldwide of other twins experiencing similar mysteries. Most famously, Norris McWhirter collapsed from a suspected heart attack at the exact same time that his brother Ross was shot dead by Irish Republican Army gunmen. Could it be because of the close bond that twins undoubtedly share? Similar reports also exist between twins who have been separated and not known of each other’s existence, suggesting that genes may play an important role in the way in which we think and feel. Read more »

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