With a database of over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to postdocs and PhD students, Sense About Science works in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to change public discussions about science and evidence. They make these scientists available for questions from civic organizations and the public looking for scientific advice from experts, campaign for the promotion of scientific principles in public policy, and publish neat guides to understanding science intended for laypeople.
These are pretty neat guides, basic enough to be accessible to most anyone but also in-depth enough that even knowledgable laypeople can expect to learn something new,
The Making Sense Of series:
Making sense of Statistics [PDF]
This guide is not a lesson in statistics. It provides the questions to ask and identifies the pitfalls to avoid to help us get behind news stories that use statistics.
But when confronted with stories such as “Diabetes drug raises death risk by 60pc”, “Gender pay gap still as high as 50%” and “Polls puts Tories up to 7% ahead”, how can we work out whether to believe them and what they really mean? Dismissing all statistics as just ‘lies’ does not help us get to grips with a story. By working through the points in the guide we can work out what the figures might be telling us.
Making Sense of Testing [PDF]
Why scans and health tests for well people aren’t always a good idea.
Adverts and media reports say that people with no symptoms, nor reason to suspect they have a disease can find out what they will get in the future, “reverse the disease processes before symptoms appear”, or even discover how they will die. People are promised instant results, valuable insights and ‘peace of mind’. What many people are getting is a lot of confusion and anxiety, ongoing trips to the doctor and, sometimes, unnecessary medical procedures. The guide presents a few insights and highlights common misconceptions about having health tests and scans.
Making Sense of Screening [PDF]
A guide to weighing up the benefits and harms of health screening programmes
Public expectations about screening don’t match what screening programmes can deliver. By addressing misconceptions about how screening works, its limitations and the calculation of benefits and harms, scientists and clinicians hope to bridge the gap between the active debates of the scientific community and the concerns raised by the public.
Making Sense of Radiation [PDF]
A guide to radiation and its health effects
Many people have become anxious about exposure to non-ionising forms of radiation, from mobiles, Wi-Fi and masts. Together with scientists, engineers and medical professionals we identified some of the tools and insights that they themselves rely on to help deliver a clearer picture of what radiation is, what it does and what it can’t do.
Making Sense of Chemical Stories [PDF]
A briefing document for the lifestyle sector on misconceptions about chemicals.
The guide flags up the more serious misconceptions that exist around chemicals and suggests straightforward ways to evaluate them. It is intended to open a conversation that promotes a stronger connection between lifestyle commentary and chemical realities.
Making Sense of GM [PDF]
What is the genetic modification of plants and why are scientists doing it?
The guide examines how GM has been debated in the past and presents commentary from scientists and agriculturalists. They respond to the public’s questions and misconceptions and put GM into the context of developing plant breeding.
Making Sense of Weather and Climate [PDF]
An introduction to forecasts and predictions of weather events and climate change
We worked with climate and weather scientists to review how weather and climate issues are discussed in media coverage and policy debates. This briefing addresses what they noticed were frequent misunderstandings to avoid losing sight of the science amidst the rows about policy, the exaggeration and Hollywood-style presentation.
I’ve Got Nothing to Lose by Trying It [PDF]
A guide to weighing up claims about cures and treatments
I Don’t Know What to Believe [PDF], US version [PDF]
Making sense of science stories
This leaflet is for people who follow debates about science and medicine in the news. It explains how scientists present and judge research and how you can ask questions of the scientific information presented to you.
Peer Review and the Acceptance of New Scientific Ideas [PDF]
Discussion paper from a Working Party on equipping the public with an understanding of peer review.
See also their pretty neat leaflets,
Sense About Systematic Reviews [PDF]
Sense About The Energy Gap [PDF]
Sense About Homeopathy [PDF]
Sense About Brain Gym [PDF]
Sense About Chiropractic [PDF]
Sense About Anti-EMF Products [PDF]
Sense About Lie Detectors [PDF]
If you need help or information on a difficult or contravertial area of science call Sense About Science on [UK] 020 7478 4380
An insect’s ability to fly is perhaps one of the greatest feats of evolution. Michael Dickinson looks at how a common housefly takes flight with such delicate wings, thanks to a clever flapping motion and flight muscles that are both powerful and nimble. But the secret ingredient: the incredible fly brain. (Filmed at TEDxCaltech.)
So Benedict’s handsome male companion will continue to live with him, while working for the other Pope during the day. Are we supposed to think that’s, well, a normal arrangement?
In what’s being described as a Kafkaesque decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a group of human rights organizations and journalists cannot challenge the government’s warrantless domestic surveillance program because they can’t prove they are targets of it.
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.
“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.
The Government has secretly ramped up a controversial programme that strips people of their British citizenship on national security grounds – with two of the men subsequently killed by American drone attacks.
An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent has established that since 2010, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has revoked the passports of 16 individuals, many of whom are alleged to have had links to militant or terrorist groups.
Critics of the programme warn that it allows ministers to “wash their hands” of British nationals suspected of terrorism who could be subject to torture and illegal detention abroad.
They add that it also allows those stripped of their citizenship to be killed or “rendered” without any onus on the British Government to intervene.
At least five of those deprived of their UK nationality by the Coalition were born in Britain, and one man had lived in the country for almost 50 years. Those affected have their passports cancelled, and lose their right to enter the UK – making it very difficult to appeal against the Home Secretary’s decision.
In 2000 a young PhD in mathematics approached me about a job before eventually landing at a European bank in research. In 2004 he started proprietary trading, where traders bet with the bank’s money. Pay was 15% of the profits. In 2005 he bought obscure and high-yielding corporate bonds, which generated profits of $40 million. He took home $6 million. In 2006 he made $80 million and took home $12 million. In 2007 the world turned and the group was disbanded as losses mounted. He was dismissed, and his trades eventually lost the firm close to $300 million.
What was his PhD thesis about? Game theory, or using math to find the optimal solution to complex systems.
Late last year he sent me an email. “Chris, why are you still working?”
In my experience, the behaviors and culture of an organization (large or small) that focuses on the Consumer as a customer is diametrically incompatible with the behaviors and culture of an organization that focuses on Business as a customer.
I feel strongly that this is a key reason Microsoft’s products are often good, but not excellent; the consumer ones and the business ones. This is why Google will never be able to beat Apple at Apple’s game: Google’s customer focus is split between the advertiser and consumer.
The behaviors of organization, which are really driven by the attitudes, actions, priorities of the people, define what the organization produces. The behaviors required to delight the consumer are simply at odds with the behaviors required to delight businesses. You cannot do both simultaneously in a single organization and be excellent.
What do Mary Bono Mack, James B. Comey, Jon Huntsman, Ken Mehlman, Steve Schmidt, William F. Weld, and Meg Whitman have in common? In addition to being conservative leaders, they’re also signatories to a brief calling on the Supreme Court to overturn Prop. 8.
Additional names are still being added, with a final list of names to be released when the brief is filed with the Supreme Court. Enacted in November 2008, Proposition 8 eliminated the fundamental freedom of gay and lesbian Californians to marry.
The glass-half-empty crowd will note that there are 30 sitting Republican governors, and 45 sitting Republican senators, and the grand total of them who signed on to this brief is zero. There are 232 sitting Republican members of the U.S. House, and only two have stepped up to put their names on this list — 0.8% of the caucus.
Still, from where I sit, given the radicalization of Republican politics in recent years, I’m inclined to embrace progress where I can find it.
The DOJ has told Congressional investigators that Aaron’s prosecution was motivated by his political views on copyright.
I was going to start that last paragraph with “In a stunning turn of events,” but I realized that would be inaccurate — because it’s really not that surprising. Many people speculated throughout the whole ordeal that this was a political prosecution, motivated by anything/everything from Aaron’s effective campaigning against SOPA to his run-ins with the FBI over the PACER database. But Aaron actually didn’t believe it was — he thought it was overreach by some local prosecutors who didn’t really understand the internet and just saw him as a high-profile scalp they could claim, facilitated by a criminal justice system and computer crime laws specifically designed to give prosecutors, however incompetent or malicious, all the wrong incentives and all the power they could ever want.
But this HuffPo article, and what I’m hearing from sources on the Hill, suggest that that’s not true. That Ortiz and Heymann knew exactly what they were doing: Shutting up, and hopefully locking up, an extremely effective activist whose political views, including those on copyright, threatened the Powers That Be
Oh yes I would.
What if the agricultural revolution has already happened and we didn’t realize it? Essentially, that’s the idea in this report from theGuardian about a group of poverty-stricken Indian rice and potato farmers who harvested confirmed world-record yields of rice and potatoes. Best of all: They did it completely sans-GMOs or even chemicals of any kind.
[Sumant] Kumar, a shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India’s poorest state Bihar, had — using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides — grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare [~2.5 acres] of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world’s population of seven billion, big news.
It beat not just the 19.4 tonnes achieved by the “father of rice”, the Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping, but the World Bank-funded scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and anything achieved by the biggest European and American seed and GM companies. And it was not just Sumant Kumar. Krishna, Nitish, Sanjay and Bijay, his friends and rivals in Darveshpura, all recorded over 17 tonnes, and many others in the villages around claimed to have more than doubled their usual yields.
Another Bihar farmer broke India’s wheat-growing record the same year. They accomplished all this without GMOs or advanced seed hybrids, artificial fertilizer or herbicide. Instead, they used a technique called System of Rice [or root] Intensification (SRI). It’s a technique developed in Madagascar in the 1980s by a French Jesuit and then identified and promulgated by Cornell political scientist and international development specialist Norman Uphoff.
SRI for rice involves starting with fewer, more widely spaced plants; using less water; actively aerating the soil; and applying lots of organic fertilizer. According to Uphoff’s SRI Institute website [PDF], the farmers who use synthetic fertilizer with the technique get lower yields than those who farm organically. How’s that for pleasant irony?
Quebec governments, particularly those of the sovereignist persuasion, like to preen when the world takes notice of the province. Not so last week, however.
Two things got Quebec unusually prominent coverage beyond its borders. One was the raid on Montreal’s city hall by the provincial anti-corruption squad. Even bigger news abroad was the crackdown by the province’s language police on one of Montreal’s leading Italian restaurants, Buonanotte, for having Italian words, such as pasta, on its menu.
World-class eatery Joe Beef in Montreal was subject to harassment for a pair of innocuous decorative signs in English on its premises. When a language inspector descended on Holder, a popular Parisian-style brasserie in Old Montreal, she was shocked to find the words Hold and Redial on the staff telephone, and a switch marked On/Off on the microwave, and ordered the owner cover them with tape.
Also found unacceptable at Holder were the letters WC on a toilet door and the word steak on a kitchen chalkboard where the chef wrote his grocery list. Pleas that WC, even though it stands for water closet, is common usage on public bathrooms in France, and that steak is as commonly used in French as in English, were of no avail.
Signs of Spring in Quebec, already.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but Steven took his testing even farther. He created a PDF containing the line: “All my children are barely legal teens — why would I want to let them drive by themselves?” And yep, Apple’s servers sent the attachment straight to hell. Then he just typed that phrase in a regular email and it was blocked too.
After more research, Steven found that under the iCloud terms of service, Apple reserves the right to remove any content at any time that it feels is objectionable, without telling you that they’re going to delete it. Apparently, ‘barely legal teens’ falls into that ‘objectionable content’ category, along with other phrases we’re probably not aware of.
We ran our own quick tests that seemed to back up Stevens claims. Apple was asked to confirm whether it’s actively scanning files in iCloud and deleting them if they have keyword phrases like “barely legal,” but they haven’t responded.
Bernanke: “Some of these rules take time to develop…”
As in never.
A councillor has apologised for telling a disability charity that “disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down”.
Collin Brewer, an independent member of Cornwall Council, made the comments to a Disability Cornwall member at a stall at County Hall in Truro in 2011.
The charity complained and the authority’s Standards Committee has reported its findings.
Two Montgomery County brothers have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the maker of Budweiser, Michelob, and their many beer cousins has systematically exaggerated how much alcohol is actually in its brews.
“We’ve spoken with former employees who have confirmed” that beer often leaves the plants with a little less than 5 percent alcohol, saving “tens of millions of dollars a year by substituting high-quality ingredients with the cheapest ingredient, which is water,” Boxer added.
There’s a joke in here involving a canoe and sex…
When markets are competitive, the consumer wins,” Christine Varney told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce back in 2009. She blamed the ideology of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that, she claimed, let industries regulate themselves. “Higher prices, reduced product variety, and slower innovations” were the result, Varney said.
She promised her “trustbusters” would put market-smothering financial, health-care, energy, and telecom bosses in prison.
After two years, Varney left for a lucrative job with a New York law firm. Then her former boss, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., announced a $100 million-plus cost-savings plan that included shutting four of the seven regional antitrust offices, effective January. That included the Philadelphia office.
Don’t worry, Holder assured congressional critics. Fewer offices didn’t have to mean less prosecution. Antitrust lawyers could relocate to Washington or New York. “Consolidating the staff into larger teams will allow the team to more effectively and efficiently manage larger investigations,” division spokeswoman Gina Talamona said at the time.
But 14 of the 15 antitrust lawyers assigned to the Philadelphia office are out of the division. Ten have left government. Lawyers have also exited newly shut offices in Dallas, Atlanta, and Cleveland.
“The loss of the Antitrust Division employees to the department resulted in an irreparable loss of talented white-collar prosecutors,”
Spokeswoman Talamona declined to discuss the lawyers’ individual decisions, or detail how Antitrust will “effectively and efficiently manage larger investigations,” without cutting its caseload, after losing so many veterans.
If by “manage” they mean “ignore”, they’ll do just fine…
“Cardinal O’Brien has tendered his resignation following, and I know this comes as a bombshell, allegations that he made a series of unwanted physical and verbal overtures directed at young men under his purview,” said archdiocese representative Thomas Heron, referring to claims lodged by four former and current priests that the Scottish archbishop sexually harassed them over several years. “If these assertions are true, then, as difficult as this is to fathom, he used his position of power to lure young men into his residence and abused the high level of trust they had placed in him.”
“Bet you never thought you’d hear comments like these in regards to a highly devout member of the church,” Heron added.
The allegations of sexual misconduct, which, again, have reportedly thrown everybody for a loop, have caused even greater alarm because, surprise, surprise, O’Brien is one of the church’s most strident ideological hardliners, having rigorously opposed homosexuality in all its forms.
Furthermore—and you might want to sit down for this—preliminary reports indicate that the Catholic Church may actually have been fully aware of the accusations against O’Brien, and yet concealed his misbehavior in order to safeguard its reputation.
On 25 February 1941, less than a year into the nazi occupation of the Netherlands, communist union leaders called for a general strike against the increasing persecution of the Jews. The resulting two day strike in Amsterdam and various other cities in North Holland, the February Strike was the first and only massive public protest against the persecution of the Jews in occupied Europe.
Amsterdam had long been a Jewish city, with a large Jewish neighbourhood in the centre and south of the city. Even before the Germans had conquered Holland, there had been clashes between Jewish people and sympathisers against the indigeneous Dutch fascists of the NSB, the National-Socialist Movement. After the occupation the latter became bolder and started systematically harassing Jewish Amsterdammers, who in turn defended themselves, often with the help of their non-Jewish neighbours and friends. This culminated in a street battle at Waterlooplein on 11 February, when a group of NSB thugs attacking Jewish owned businesses were themselves attacked by a communist strike team of Jewish and non-Jewish residents. As the smoke cleared, one NSB man was left mortally wounded, who died on the 14th.
This incident, as well as similar one when the German SD tried to raid a Jewish-owned icecream parlor and got their asses kicked, was the excuse the nazis needed to institute the first razzias, driving together several hundred Jewish men, beating and torturing them, before sending them off to the concentration camps. This razzia took place on February 23-24, with the communist appeal for a general strike following the next morning.
Though the strike in the end was largely futile, it did serve to rip the mask off the nazi occupier. After its brutal repression it was no longer possible to believe things could continue as usual. In Amsterdam the strike is still remembered each year with a march past the Dokwerker, the statue created in remembrance of the strike in 1951, located on the Jonas Daniel Meijerplein, a centre of the old Jewish neighbourhood.
The Dutch National Archive has a large collection of images from the Februarystrike and its aftermath. The Anne Frank Museum of course also has some information on the strike.
With another 2 billion people hooking up to the Internet in the next five years, there’s plenty of room for another mobile operating system, Mozilla Chief Executive Gary Kovacs said today in a sales pitch for his new Firefox OS.
A high-level Samsung executive said at the Mobile World Congress show here that Samsung isn’t interested in Mozilla’s browser-based operating system.
Basically, Tizen is a Linux-based open-source software platform that is designed for smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and in-car systems. Led by Intel and Samsung in a “technical steering group”, Tizen emerged from the dusty ashes of Nokia’s MeeGo. It is hoped to be Samsung’s hedge against Google’s Android, and to compete against iOS as well.
It’s been just a few weeks since Canonical announced Ubuntu for phones, but on Tuesday the company followed up by taking the wraps off the software’s tablet counterpart.
Two powerful dairy organizations, The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), are petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to allow aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to be added milk and other dairy products without a label.
The FDA currently allows the dairy industry to use “nutritive sweeteners” including sugar and high fructose corn syrup in many of their products. Nutritive sweeteners are defined as sweeteners with calories.
This petition officially seeks to amend the standard of identification for milk, cream, and 17 other dairy products like yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and others to provide for the use of any “safe and suitable sweetener” on the market
They claim that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners would promote healthy eating and is good for school children.
An NYPD officer is on trial in a federal case stemming from a bizarre online plan allegedly to kidnap, cook and eat women.
Gilberto Valle, who was suspended without pay after his arrest last fall, hung his head and appeared to wipe away tears Monday as his 27-year-old wife, Kathleen Mangan, became the first witness to testify against him.
Mangan, a former Bronx school teacher, was the one who alerted authorities that her husband was involved in fetish websites that talked about kidnapping, torturing, cooking and killing women. She and the couple’s infant daughter moved out of the family’s Queens apartment in September.
Oh, now we got cannibals in the police. Or people who are wanna-be cannibals.
Roll up, roll up! More fun and frolics is guaranteed!
Italy faces political paralysis as near-complete results in crucial national elections have shown that no group won enough votes to form a government.
The uncertainty bodes ill for the nation’s efforts to pass the tough reforms it needs to snuff out its economic crisis and prevent a new round of global financial turmoil…
Blah, blah, more gloom. Boo!
“This is the worst possible outcome from the market’s point of view … It seems inevitable that there will be a new election,” said Alessandro Tentori, Citigroup head of global rates.
Not all bad, then.
And introducing, that irrepressible comedian some have compared to a less conciliatory George Carlin, Mr. Beppe Grillo!
The result was an extraordinary success for Genoese comic Beppe Grillo, leader of the populist 5-Star Movement, who toured the country in his first national election campaign hurling obscenity-laced insults against a discredited political class.
He was set to become the biggest single party in the lower house, riding a potent wave of anger against rampant waste and corruption by ageing political leaders.
And of course, Silvio, our favorite “man of action” is back! (Gentlemen, lock up your daughters!)
Billionaire media magnate Berlusconi, 76, who staged an extraordinary comeback from sex and corruption scandals since diving into the campaign in December, came in a close second in the Senate race, with an estimated 117 seats.
Sweden’s IKEA has stopped nearly all sales of meatballs at its furniture store cafeterias across Europe after tests in the Czech Republic showed some contained horsemeat.
Well I guess it’s better than shit.