Issue 6

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 »

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 »

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