Issue 6

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 »

Ironing the oceans

The year is 2200. Amidst gusting winds, churning waves, and across vast expanses of the stormy Southern Ocean, ships carrying teams of scientists and engineers stake out their territory, preparing to release hundreds of tons of iron dust into the sea in an effort to save the planet.

Could this be the start of the next Armageddon sci-fi flick, or a clever, realistic and economically lucrative solution to managing global warming? Due to the scarcity of scientific data about the long-term effects and effectiveness of the method, a debate rages among environmentalists, scientists, and private companies as to whether dumping iron into international waters would reverse global warming or cause irreparable damage to the Earth's ecosystem. Read more »

It's snow joke

Did you spend the Christmas season shoveling snow and scrounging for salt? No? Neither did I. I was too busy playing in the stuff. The inner (and for me, outer) geek in us may have wondered exactly what the science is behind snow formation and what effect, if any, it has on the global climate.

Assuming your meteorological knowledge to be somewhere above Ulrika Johnsson, but just shy of Michael Fish, snow formation begins with water vapour in a super-cooled state, within stratiform (low and sheet-like) or cumulus clouds (vertical and fluffy). For freezing to occur, enough water molecules must accumulate within a water droplet for an embryo of ice to form and grow. An increase in size of the droplet is accompanied by an increase in energy. Read more »

Does the Media Influence Government Funding for Science Research more than Scientists?

As with all government spending covering a broad remit, science research and development (R&D) allocates different amounts to specific areas each year, but how is it decided which areas get a bigger share of the pie? One would hope that, barring a catastrophe such as an epidemic of a new disease, funds would be distributed to different areas fairly equally and that grant award decisions are made by experienced researchers depending on the quality of the research proposed. Science research should not follow the trends of the time; one area of science should not be in vogue while others disappear, especially as any researcher knows that significant developments can take many years that require consistent funding to make any real headway. Read more »

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 »

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