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 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 »

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 »

Our friends in the gut

There are 10 times as many bacteria in your gut than there are cells that make up your entire body. In total they weigh 1.5 kilograms. After they die, they make up 60% of the dry mass of your poo, and there are between 300 and 1000 different species of them. They are clearly a major component of your biology. Read more »

Neuroimaging in the dock

In 2009, evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was submitted to a US court for the first time. The defence for Brian Dugan, a convicted murderer and rapist, suggested that brain scans demonstrating blood flow abnormalities more common in psychopathy should be viewed as a mitigating circumstance when choosing a sentence for his crime. Despite this defence, he was sentenced to death.

Dugan's case was the first use of fMRI in court. However, a range of neuroimaging technologies have had applications in criminal law. They have been used to demonstrate injury, to suggest diminished responsibility for crimes on the basis of brain abnormalities and, most recently, touted as potential truth detectors. This article first describes some notable cases involving neuroimaging, and then considers some possible technical and ethical concerns about the new 'mind reading' machines. Read more »

Jobs and Journalism: the future of the digital media

The days of the printed newspaper may be numbered. Those used to getting their ‘news fix’ for free online are soon to be asked to pay by sites such as The Times. Web-based technologies and cheap, compact recording equipment have enabled more people than ever not just to read the news, but to participate in, or even produce it (so-called 'citizen journalists'). How will you read your news in 10 years time? Who will be producing it? Will you be paying for it? With the help of experts interviewed at this year's Science Festival, EUSci examines the issues. Read more »

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