The ‘big story’

The Royal Society book prize was awarded to Nick Lane for his ‘explanation of life as we know it’, Life Ascending. One of our favourite bloggers Pharyngula reviewed the book on its publication last year:

…what enlivens the book is the biochemist’s perspective: Lane isn’t so much interested in the superficial matters of morphology, but in the emergence of new properties in the molecular machinery of the cell, and how it affects the world around us.

Judge and former Tomorrow’s World presenter Maggie Philbin explains the choice on Guardian’s science podcast this week. To the outrage of science journalists, this Royal Society book prize will be the last due to a lack of funds.

The misreporting

Sexologist Dr. Petra Boynton frequently flags up misreporting in the media around that most British of embarrassing issues – sex and sexual dysfunction. This week, she picked up on a science story (reported by many health and science journalists across the national press) which reported that women with lower sex drives have ‘different brains’.

This is a screen capture of Dr. Petra pointing out some of the flaws in these reports (read from the bottom up):

It might seem the good doctor exaggerates the harmful effects headlines like these can have. But given the commonness of sexual dysfunction (in men and women alike) vs. the lack of genuinely informative articles in the media, one sometimes questions how much the press is really out to inform.

Comment piece

A late entry from Alice Bell’s ‘Who’s the geek?’ piece for the Guardian science blog. While Bell is generally an excellent blogger, this is essentially a piece of Thursday afternoon fluff. However, this is one of the few CiF pieces which is worth reading for the comments alone. Bell’s closing question – what’s the geekiest thing you’ve ever done? My favourite:

I once cycled around all the London Monopoly board locations IN THE CORRECT ORDER. Took three and a half hours and involved more trips along oxford street than any cyclist should have to endure in a week, let alone a day.

If you’re ever tempted to try it be aware that the house-hotel properties are mainly in the West End but the stations are in the City. The low point was having to go from Bond Street to Park Lane… via Liverpool Street station.


Slightly quirky/interesting article

A slightly meta reference this week – an interesting thought in New Scientist with one of those pieces-of-research-wot-everyone-knew-already-but-hadn’t-proved: should students be typecast into science? Students who choose science subjects tend to be introverted/shyer, more conscientious and emotionally stable. A great quote from one of the researchers:

“There’s a feeling that science students have nerdy characteristics,” she says, “but we were surprised to see it in our results, and to see it as early as age 15.”