Issue 7

Issue 7

From the editors: 
We would like to say a big hello and introduce ourselves to all EUSci readers as the new EUSci editors. Thank you to Hayden and Jess for all their hard work putting the last two issues of EUSci together. We hope that we’ve managed to live up to the high standard they set and that you enjoy reading this issue as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together! This issue’s focus explores an important theme that crosses a multitude of scientific fields; that of decision-making. This theme has two sides to it; firstly, that of how scientific technology is rapidly changing the way in which decisions are made for us, and secondly how novel scientific information is being used to make decisions that influence all of us. The focus explores a range of topics covering these two issues. Our features cover as diverse an array of topics as ever, ranging from obesity to synchrotrons. It is credit to our contributors that we continue to publish a wide range of articles covering topics across the spectrum of scientific research. The features deadline, for issue 8 will be the 11th of October and as usual, we welcome submissions from anyone who has an interest in writing about science. Happy reading, Lynne Harris and Catie Lichten
From the president: 
Welcome to issue 7 of  EUSci magazine! Why did you decide to pick it up? Your eye caught by the front cover, an interest in science? Possibly you are a regular reader or may be one of us zealously thrust this magazine into your hand at the fresher’s fair. Either way, I hope you agree that it is a thing of beauty, containing the best in science journalism; written, illustrated and edited by University of Edinburgh students and staff. However this magazine is only one facet of the expanding EUSci media empire. Our fortnightly award nominated podcast, conveys the latest need-to- know science related news (available on itunes), while the seminar series is an opportunity for anyone to expound upon a pet scientific obsession. For the imaginative the EUSciFi short story competition returns and we have just purchased a digital camera – ideas for EUSci TV wanted! Want to get involved? Meet us in person during fresher week or visit the newly revamped eusci.org containing information on all past, present and future activities. We can also be stalked through our facebook fan page and twitter feed (@eusci).Alex Sinclair

New Alzheimer’s Treatments made Possible by Novel Study

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have identified the role of an enzyme which helps control brain activity. The findings, published in the renowned journal Nature Neuroscience, may pave the way for new treatments for Alzheimer’s and epilepsy. Read more »

What a copycat

Bowerbirds are best known for the construction and subsequent decoration of their elaborate bowers, which are used by males to attract mates.  But it is not so widely known that bowerbirds are also proficient mimics, typically mimicking over a dozen other species and environmental noises. Read more »

Flights over forest give scientists aerial view of climate change

A team from the GeoSciences department at The University of Edinburgh, lead by Dr Caroline Nichol, has launched a programme to assess how much carbon dioxide boreal forests are absorbing. These are located around the Arctic Circle and their size is comparable to Amazon rainforests. Read more »

Alcohol-related deaths are connected with ethnic divides

In the UK, alcohol-related deaths have doubled between 1991 and 2006, especially in Scotland with nearly 1,500 deaths each year. Research has shown that liver disease, liver cirrhosis, accidents and suicides are the most common causes of death associated with extensive alcohol consumption in Scotland. Read more »

Are you in need of a little nudge?

If you're anything like me you probably like to consider yourself a rational sort of person, who makes informed, logical decisions about their health, wealth and happiness. If so, then I would like to introduce you to two species; Homo economicus and Homo sapiens. Whereas the former has the brainpower of Albert Einstein, can store as much memory as IBM's Big Blue, and exert the willpower of Mother Teresa, the latter struggle with multiplication without a calculator, sometimes forget their wedding anniversary and drink so much beer that they can't function the next day. Read more »

The Doughnuts of Science

If I were to ask you, "What is a synchrotron?", you would probably think "Eh?", but you are probably aware of the largest of them all, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), part of the CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. This particle smasher, which is hunting for the so-called 'God particle', the Higgs Boson, lives under part of the French-Swiss border. The LHC is a large circular pipe that is 27 kilometres in circumference and works by accelerating charged particles (such as protons and electrons) around the circle by use of varying magnetic fields. When the particles are fast enough, they are diverted and allowed to smash into each other, revealing what they are made of in the process. However, though the LHC is the largest synchrotron in the world, and as a result can generate the fastest particles, it is not the only one. Read more »

Practical Applications

Crucially, GAME THEORY has also found a key application in evolutionary biology, notably in our understanding of altruism. Altruism can be summed up in the colloquialism 'You scratch my back if I scratch yours’. Behaviour like this has an obvious benefit – there are some parts of my back that I can’t reach! In terms of game theory, one might describe behaving altruistically as increasing an opponent’s payoff (in nature biological fitness and therefore reproductive capacity) at the expense of one’s own. However, this seems counterintuitive; surely the drive not to reciprocate should produce groups of selfish individuals. As in the prisoner’s dilemma, it is always better to take advantage of an altruist than to return the favour. Read more »

Machines that think for us

In 1969, artificial intelligence research was facing a crisis. Early promises of developing truly autonomous and intelligent agents had not been realised, funding was drying up, and successful applications were thin on the ground. Then along came Ed Feigenbaum of Stanford University with Dendral, one of the first expert systems that promised to revolutionise decision-making by combining human expert knowledge with machine accuracy. Read more »

Health treatments & the 'right' decision

Britain's 'Big Society' is one of responsibility and empowerment, ideals that are particularly relevant to the clinical world where patients want choice and control over their treatments. However, evidence from cognitive psychology suggests that we are far from optimal decision-makers, so decision support systems could help us fare better in taking control successfully. REACT (Risk, Events, Actions and their Consequences over Time) is a tool being developed by a group in Edinburgh.  REACT aims to improve our decision-making abilities. It enables patients to interactively scrutinise the benefits and risks of their treatment options over time. Read more »

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