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 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 »

When Science Meets Choice

Decisions are made by us and for us everyday, some more important than others; but how much do we know about how these decisions are made and what implications they have for our future health, wealth and happiness?

This focus examines some of the theories behind decision making, some of the ways in which these decisions are made and a few situations where these are applied to situations which can affect all of our lives.

Panic in level 4

Richard Preston is best known for his bestselling novel, The Hot Zone, in which he introduced the Ebola virus to a mainstream audience. His latest work, Panic in Level 4, is a collection of non-fiction, science-related stories.

Preston opens with an introduction detailing his experience in a Level 4 laboratory, Level 4 being the highest level of bio-security. He then introduces us to the Chudnovsky brothers, who built a supercomputer in their New York apartment to continue their quest for pi (π)- they’ve calculated it to over 2 million places! The brothers appear again in a story about the famous artworks, the Unicorn Tapestries. Preston’s interest in the tapestries lies in the difficulties encountered during digital imaging, performed to capture and record the colours and mirror images found perfectly preserved on the reverse of the tapestries. The Chudnovsky brothers’ mathematical minds are required to reassemble the tiny bits of the images. Read more »

Is it the Doctor Who Decides?

In October 2009, Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), expressed an opinion contrary to that of the government of the time. What compelled the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson to sack Professor David Nutt over this?  Why did scientists get so frustrated when Professor David Nutt was dismissed?  This event raises many issues about decision-making in science and technology.

In modern life, many decisions require scientific and technological knowledge. These include macro-decisions, such as whether to ban certain drugs, approve new medicines, build nuclear power-plants, and so on. There are also micro-decisions such as which medical treatment to provide to each patient, and home hygiene. Read more »

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