Sunday, 30 September 2018
It has been suggested that the Nobel prize (both highly prestigious and financially well rewarded) is somewhat out-dated in its approach to current Science (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/sep/30/nobel-prize-fails-modern-science). Firstly, it only gives prizes for Chemistry, Physics and Physiology (generally ignoring the Behavioural Sciences, Environmental Studies and Mathematics) and, secondly, it fails (although many recent prizes have been shared) to recognize that much of science is currently accomplished by teams of workers rather than a lone genius. Some people are concerned about the secretive nature of both nominations and voting on the list by the Nobel committee (even suggesting that 'cronyism' may be involved in the process). The time does seem ripe to update the process to more overtly reward ground-breaking science.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/30/covert-footage-reveals-cruelty-of-badger-culls). One can't help but feel that the cull is largely carried out because farmers are a powerful lobby group in many rural areas?
The UN has suggested that the failure of the UK government to protect its children from the negative effects of illegally high (on EU measures) air pollution is infringing their human rights (https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/761226/UK-air-pollution-London-clean-air-UN ). Children are especially susceptible to both particulates and nitrous oxides- influencing, it is claimed, their longevity, proneness to respiratory problems and even their intellectual development. In spite of this, very little appears to has been done to reduce this type of pollution (particularly around schools in major cities like London).
Friday, 28 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/26/eating-junk-food-raises-risk-of-depression-says-multi-country-study). Although this could simply be a consequence of not taking in sufficient quantities of the necessary nutrients (and, perhaps, too much of the wrong foods), there are other possibilities. At the most basic, some people who eat junk food are just basically poor and a strong link between poverty and depression has been known for some time. It could also be the case that some regular consumers of junk food do so in a way that curtails their social interactions and that could have a detrimental effect on mental health. People who eat junk foods may also develop obesity, a condition that damages physical health, having a positive body image and a willingness to do exercise (all factors that might predispose individuals to depression). I suspect that different combinations of factors account for the link in different cases.
- September 28, 2018
Thursday, 27 September 2018
https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/motors/2018/09/27/air-cleaning-bus-hits-the-streets-of-southampton/). I have also heard that other people are developing bas stops that remove air pollution.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/sep/24/10-minutes-of-exercise-a-day-improves-memory). But then again, you can't be too careful. Use it or lose it!
https://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/stem-cells-in-blood-might-be-used-to-grow-new-blood-vessels/81256279). This might well be a source of medical interventions, especially in areas that are poorly vascularised.
Wednesday, 26 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/25/four-anti-fracking-activists-face-prison-over-protest). The earlier example involved the mass 'trespass' on Kinder Scout (part of the campaign to allow rambling) and we all know how that turned out. I still don't understand why the government is so keen to force fracking on local communities.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/26/great-barrier-reef-scientists-told-to-focus-on-projects-to-make-government-look-good). It's hardly unique for a government to want to benefit by getting 'pats on the back' for their use of public funds (bangs for the buck?) but this is not, in my view, the correct way to operate in Science. The environmental credibility of the Australian government has been damaged by some of their recent decisions and I would hope that scientists working on the reef should be free consider any detrimental effects of current practices (otherwise, it's just PR).
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/26/air-pollution-fears-fuel-fight-against-huge-new-london-cruise-ship-terminal-river-thames). These large ships (there could be up to 50 per year), not only produced masses of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides when they are in motion but, when docked, they continuously run their engines to power all the services onboard the vessel. I know that cruising is a popular activity but the locals must be fuming.
Monday, 24 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/sep/23/scientists-changing-global-warming-report-please-polluters). Science stands or falls by making a testable hypothesis and making predictions on this basis that are experimentally examined (hopefully, in a way that is unbiased). When the predictions are not supported, the scientist has to change the hypothesis (either by tweaking it or coming up with something new).There are no such constraints on 'belief systems'. So you can't be a little bit scientific and the fact that scientists often differ in their views should not be seen as a weakness (especially when a contentious area is developing). I do think you have to tell it how it is!
- September 24, 2018
Sunday, 23 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/21/lidl-to-stop-using-black-plastic-fruit-and-vegetable-packaging). This is claimed to be because such plastic cannot be recycled (it could, of course, be because the sorting devices used by some waste treatment centres don't respond to it?). There is a confusing enormous variation in what plastic items can and cannot be recycled in parts of the UK and it would help enormously if a greater degree of conformity could be legislated.
Saturday, 22 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/sep/19/websites-of-kinder-chocolate-banned-over-ads-targeting-children) for breaking its rules on encouraging the ingestion of products high in fats, salt or sugar by toddlers (i.e. the under 16's). The convention has been devised as a contribution to the 'war on obesity' that is damaging the health of UK children and costing the NHS millions. The reason why (kinder)surprise is in short supply is that the aims of the sweet producer (to sell as much product to as many people as possible) and the health professions (to encourage individuals to adopt a healthy diet) are completely at variance. This is one reason why self-regulation by producers rarely has much impact.
- September 22, 2018
Thursday, 20 September 2018
- September 20, 2018
Wednesday, 19 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/19/microplastics-can-spread-via-flying-insects-research-shows). As the adults are fed up by larger organisms such as dragonflies as well as insectivorous birds and bats, this means that the microplastics are reaching areas that other environmental contaminants cannot reach!
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45566304). It's pretty obviously because the strictly herbivorous bee's role in pollination is well understood as well as this insect being less likely to sting (it's fatal for this insect with its harpoon-like sting). In contrast, it's not generally appreciated that social wasps being omnivorous are also active pollinators as well as being effective predators on a range of plant-devouring caterpillars. Also the wasp, having a syringe needle-like sting, is more likely to use its defence mechanism repeatedly (you really shouldn't take it personally!). Perhaps people can be convinced (with better PR) that wasps are useful insects and not just pointless pests?
Tuesday, 18 September 2018
Monday, 17 September 2018
http://nohealthproblemsnews.com/health-news/scientists-find-toxic-soot-particles-inside-the-placenta/). It has long been known that toxic air pollution has detrimental effects on the health of neonates but, how it has this action, has been unclear. I am not certain, however, that advising pregnant women (and anyone else?) to avoid, where possible, areas with high air pollution (as some have done) is terribly helpful.
A large,detailed study using healthy people over 70 in a daily aspirin versus placebo trial appears to have shown no benefits in terms of increasing health and longevity (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/sep/16/daily-aspirin-unlikely-to-help-older-people-live-longer-study-finds). In fact, some studies appear to suggest that this pain-relieving, anticoagulant actually increases conditions such as stroke.
Saturday, 15 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/15/hurricane-category-6-this-is-how-world-ends-book-climate-change). They would make the damage currently being seen, in relation to Florence, pale into insignificance. And yet, climate change denial seems to be in the ascendancy, especially in Australia and the USA?
- September 15, 2018
Friday, 14 September 2018
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/26/british-farmers-could-grow-gm-crops-after-brexit-reveals-ministe/). Although this would stimulate an area of UK scientific expertise, there are 2 potential problems with this aim. Firstly, agitation against GM (crops but not medical applications) has always been intense in the UK, certainly contributing to the initial EU ban and secondly changing UK policy in this respect might well make trading prepared foods with the EU even more difficult. It would also be unfortunate if a relaxation of the GM ban in the UK resulted in an influx of such materials from the USA (along with hormone-treated beef and chlorine-washed chicken).
- September 14, 2018
Thursday, 13 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/11/air-pollution-is-biggest-environmental-health-risk-in-europe). Even more scarily, a tenth of those deaths occur in the UK, a country with a large population, a relatively small area and a strongly-entrenched car habit.
https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/radioactive-mud-dumped-coast-cardiff-14464416). Apparently, tests have shown that the mud is not (as was feared) radioactive but one has to ask why the mud has to be dumped in this location (and the benefit to Wales of receiving Somerset mud)?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/13/a-road-full-of-bottlenecks-dutch-cycle-path-is-made-of-plastic-waste). The material is apparently three times more durable than tar macadam and the section is loaded with sensors to detect numbers of cycles using the route, the temperature of the track et cetera. This seems a fine way of using plastic waste. I commend it!
Wednesday, 12 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/11/dairy-in-moderation-is-good-for-heart-health-study-finds). Although arteriosclerosis (blocking of the blood supply to the heart by plaque) can be increased by consuming substantial amounts of fatty foods, the dairy products contain many factors that appear help the heart keep ticking along. The study was carried out with populations where there was a relatively modest intake of dairy products.
Tuesday, 11 September 2018
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/09/05/bird-feeders-favour-pushy-big-birds-little-species-go-hungry/). This is hardly novel (there are actually commercial devices that are claimed to facilitate access by smaller species and to make it more difficult for the 'big brutes'). Having said that, foraging for food is a competitive business (even within members of the same species) and smaller birds can still benefit from food items dropped or scattered in the feeding frenzy. Feeders do, at least, enable people to provision the birds in a fairly simple way. I would not like to see the bully claim being used as an excuse not to provide feeders (although they do need to be occasionally disinfected!).
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/sep/06/probiotics-not-as-beneficial-for-gut-health-as-previously-thought). This appears to be especially the case when they are taken in conjunction with antibiotics (which will attack our flora as well as the bacterial infection they are prescribed for). The combination can produce profound gastro-intestinal disturbances.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/11/water-voles-returning-to-national-park-in-west-country-after-30-years). The reintroduction, at 6 locations, will involve about 150 animals and is intended to be carefully monitored. It is, however, difficult to preclude Water vole killers such as mink and domestic cats from such an area, so it remains to be seen whether the attempt will or will not turn out to be successful (especially as it is reportedly the UKs most rapidly declining Mammal).
Monday, 10 September 2018
Friday, 7 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/07/bbc-we-get-climate-change-coverage-wrong-too-often). There, apparently,will be seminars provided for programme makers (there is no mention about whether attendance will be compulsory) as it is admitted that very few such individuals have a science background.
- September 07, 2018
Wednesday, 5 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/04/first-eight-bird-extinctions-of-the-21st-century-confirmed). Just imagine how many species of bacteria, fungi, plants and insects have been lost in the same period.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/05/four-million-uk-children-too-poor-to-have-a-healthy-diet-study-finds)! As developing children are particularly likely to develop health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, it is not unreasonable to focus on them. It might also be worth pointing out, however, that there must be considerable numbers of lone adults who cannot pay the circa £35 per week needed to buy healthy food (cooking it also costs money). This is all without taking into account other issues (e.g. rents; travel costs; interest payments; pressures to purchase TV packages; holidays et cetera) that make it less likely that, even people who could afford a healthy, balanced diet, will allocate enough of their income to buy the ingredients.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/04/how-do-i-find-out-my-heart-age). It was newsworthy that many respondents reportedly had heart ages considerably older than their chronological age. As the questions concern items relating to ethnicity, postcode; height/weight and whether the individual smokes, one has to take the app estimations with a pinch of salt. As they used to say in the early days of computing "garbage in: garbage out". People are not very good about answering any such questions honestly or accurately. The actual situation vis-a-vis heart health of the UK population is likely to be (much?) worse.
Monday, 3 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/03/watch-your-step-why-the-10000-daily-goal-is-built-on-bad-science). The figure is essentially a comparatively ancient number plucked out for marketing purposes by developers of Japanese technology. As is pointed out in the article, even subsequent 'scientific' studies fail to look at categories of subjects with a range of daily numbers (they do things like assess weight loss in people completing 10k steps and those doing considerably less) as well as failing to consider that the optimal number of steps may depend on the subject's age and health status.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/03/fracking-england-tories-lancashire-council-government) about the imposition of fracking on areas of England (Scotland and Wales have declined the technology) against the expressed wishes of the local populations. I personally cannot see fracking as any kind of answer to the problem of climate change and find it extraordinary that local democratic mechanisms are being dismantled to facilitate its take-up.
Sunday, 2 September 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/aug/31/londons-parks-accused-of-creeping-privatisation-of-public-spaces). The parks were originally a source of civic pride and were viewed as locations where the general population could freely seek calm and relaxation. It appears now that the financial pressures being felt throughout local government, has resulted in councils dramatically increasing their hiring out of such locations to music festivals and other activities. This, of course, results in the local population being excluded from the parks whilst the event in underway (as well as exposing them to increases in light and noise pollution, along with littering). One could add (although not considered in the report) that many of the animals that live in the parks are also subject to disturbance and some might well be driven from the area. It is understood that councils feel compelled to maximise the revenue that 'their' parks generate but it does change the entire relationship of parks to people.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/aug/31/mediterranean-diet-old-age-longer-life-study). Trading up, as a mature adult, to a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit along with fish and olive oil as a cooking agent, reportedly results in people living longer (but, pretty obviously, going easy on the alcohol and certainly not smoking). Perhaps, in some geographical areas nearer the poles, you would still have to supplement vitamin D?
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