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 »

The coalition government and you: the future of British science

The election campaigns of the three major political parties in Britain weren't highly focused on science, engineering and technology (SET). Therefore  very little was discussed in public about the in-depth SET policies of the parties. Now that the election has taken place and a new government is in Whitehall, it is time the Con-Lib Dem government outlined the future for British SET in more detail. Read more »

Close Encounters of the Wired Mind: When Cucumbers Taste Pink

When Patient X meets psychologist Dr Julia Simner, he prefers to call her by her first name Julia than by her nickname 'Jools'. Indeed, calling her 'Jools' triggers an intense gush of orange Starbust candy flavour in his mouth, a sensation he prefers to avoid when speaking to his doctor. What's wrong with Patient X? Nothing, actually; he's affected by a neurological condition called synesthesia.

In synesthesia, visual colour information merges with other senses. This condition, and colour perception in general, were the topics of the Colour My World Neuroscience Encounter I saw last May at InSpace.
The Encounters are a lecture series put on by InSpace and Edinburgh Neuroscience. This series explores topics related to informatics and neuroscience. InSpace itself is a public engagement research laboratory resulting from a research partnership between the School of Informatics and New Media Scotland.  Read more »

Trying to do a maxi-prep in a chaotic lab

Bench science is a frustrating beast; things that seem ever so simple can often take all day. Because labs are such large communal spaces, there’s a lot of equipment and chemicals that are shared. As there’s no official ‘lab admin’ to clean up and order new things, it’s everybody’s responsibility to take care of these things, but the problem is, very often they don’t. A worst-case scenario can be exemplified doing a maxi-prep, used to get DNA samples out of bacteria.

Maxi-preps are not fun. I have to culture a ton of bacteria and spend all day pipetting and centrifuging and pipetting and centrifuging again. All I get out of it is a piddling little tube of DNA. Add in the fact that everybody around me has forgotten to do all those little tidying-up jobs around the lab and I’m having a really crap day. Read more »

The importance of being NICE

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world. It mediates, manages and procures healthcare from diagnosis, through prognosis to cure. However, it is an unfortunate reality that the NHS only has limited, in fact diminishing, resources at its disposal. The unenviable role of allocating these scarce resources equitably has been delegated to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, or NICE, which makes decisions concerning which drugs to invest in, what diagnostic tests to perform, and which patients to prioritize for treatment. This article attempts to review the processes employed in making such decisions, from quantifying the value of a year of life to striking deals with drug manufacturers to offset negative outcomes. It will also consider how and why controversies arise. Read more »

Reality show meets scientists

This past spring, five researchers from the University of Edinburgh battled it out against scientists from across the UK in the inaugural round of “I’m a Scientist, Get Me out of Here!” With 25 scientists and around 2,000 high school students participating in its first round, this Wellcome Trust-funded event aims to make science and scientists more accessible to teenagers, and hopefully show that scientists are normal people, too!

The event lasts two weeks and takes place entirely through the “I’m a Scientist” website. The website is divided into ‘zones’, with five scientists each. Some of these are themed zones (focusing on topics such as the brain or evolution), and some are general science. Students post questions on the site to be answered either by a specific scientist or by all five scientists in a zone. Teachers can also book live slots in which students and scientists chat in real time via a chat room. Read more »

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