Baby, look at you now!

CERN’s Sir Tim Berners-Lee, father of the world wide web, has been honoured again, this time being named Greatest Briton 2004. Definitely a worthy recipient of the 25,000 pounds prize!

But, look at what his hyperlinking idea spawned: a more than a decade-long information revolution from Amazon to the Zoological Department of the University of Zanzibar. Interestingly, TBL never envisaged the Web evolving in the way it did. His original concept was more akin to the interactive blogs and wikis that have sprung up in that last couple of years, where visitors to a page can contribute to and edit pages and add links to other pertinent pages. I’m sure he would have kept the whole thing to himself if he could have foreseen the dot.com hype and the bursting stockmarket bubble of the 1990s.

But, where would we be without his little webby baby? Probably getting a lot more fresh air and exercise, I’d say.

Healthy Fidgeting

More from the governmental Department of the Bleeding Obvious this week. Apparently, fit people, by which I mean healthier people, tend to be more fidgety than overweight people, who sit around and move little.

According to recent research, the fidgeters spend at least two hours a day on their feet. The extra energy they use amounts to about 350 kcal per day enough to be the equivalent of 30 to 40 pounds weight loss exercise a year. The researchers suggest that fidgeting might be down to a genetic predisposition and that those who don’t have this predisposition have a greater tendency to obesity. I told you it was bleeding obvious.

Enough to make your blood boil

Folic acid was the subject of the latest medical scare story at the end of 2004, where pregnant women, taking the vitamin to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in their unborn child, were suddenly confronted with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Coincidence then, that just this week we hear that folic acid might actually reduce women’s blood pressure? It’s almost as if given the panic surrounding the breast cancer scare that a positive result was needed to counteract it. Trouble is the media generally doesn’t take into account the tiny percentage changes in risk and benefits associated with these studies.

So, maybe there is a fractional percentage increase in risk of breast cancer, and a fractional percentage decrease in hypertension. Neither value can shift the more than significant risk of neural tube defects in children whose mothers were deficient in folate when they conceived. The media needs more journalists with a scientific or medical background who can see through the statistical haze, we’d then hopefully avoid some of the unwarranted scare and hype.

Libido inhibitors

According to an article in the New York Times, a drug used to counteract the libido-inhibiting side-effects of Prozac and other selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) used as antidepressants in men and women, has a side effect of its own. Apparently, a female patient taking the popular SSRI Zoloft, was prescribed Wellbutrin to try and resurrect her vanished libido. She reported a rather odd shopping experience to her physician in which she had “suffered” an unusual side effect of the drug – an orgasm that lasted, on and off, for two hours.

The patient was apparently delighted, but her physician was concerned that the drug had triggered an episode of hypersexual mania. However, the side effects have not come again, although the patient’s libido has returned and she is enjoying an active sex life once again. I wonder what she’d make of spray-on condoms and the nasal libido spray.

Sciencebase links

Sciencebase has been around a long time, fifteen years as of this July 2014 update. Before that, it had a pre-incarnation in the form of my Elemental Discoveries web pages that I first published on the web in late 1995! It’s changed and evolved.

There was a time before blogs, when Sciencebase was essentially a blog, it’s been a portal, a hub, a webzine etc. It even used to have a links directory stuffed with useful science links back in the late 1990s early 2000s. But things move on, people no longer need blogrolls, they want links to specific content on an ad hoc basis, which is where Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram etc all come into their own.

Moreover, I have so many sources that it would be impossible to keep the lists up to date. If you want to find out which sites I read and respect then read my blogs posts, follow me on Twitter and like the Sciencebase Facebook page, that way you will keep abreast of the things that I am keeping abreast of…as it were.

Black Squirrels

UPDATE: The original post was January 2005 and the November mentioned was obviously November 2004, it’s May 2016 as I type this update, not seen the black variant in our garden since this photo was taken.

Nothing is black and white, or should that be grey and black? As I type, I can see two grey squirrels chasing around our back garden, doing the kinds of things squirrels usually do. But, there’s no sign of the slightly fluffier black squirrel we’ve been seeing around these parts since last November.

I’m not worried for Cyril (obvious name, really) but curious as to how the ecological dynamic is being disturbed by the grey incomers. Ironic really, given that the black is a simple genetic variant of the American grey and neither are native to the UK. We have our own red squirrel, which is increasingly rare even in Northumberland (I did see one in France last year though).

black-squirrel-130405

What is a Science Writer

Ever wondered what scientific journalists do? Well, there are some useful FAQs on the web, in particular at the CASW, NASW, WFSJ, and ABSW sites that do a pretty good job of explaining although from my personal perspective there is no definitive job description.

As you know, 雷竞技官网 writes for numerous websites providing news, views and interviews, but he also does a spot of web doodling, web editing, photography and image manipulation. He has written numerous information brochures, reports on scientific meetings for several outlets, contributed anecdotes and pithy observations to Feedback in New Scientist and other markets. He has also written and contributed to several books, done radio interviews, consulted for TV and radio, newsletters, journals (I’ve sub-edited a fair few of those too!) and websites, and that’s on top of pounding the scientific journalism beat for countless (well, not quite) magazines and papers from The Guardian and Daily Telegraph to Nature, PNAS and Science. He produces several RSS newsfeeds for his own work and that of several clients. He has even written a few letters to magazines, although admittedly that’s not quite as challenging as helping to create a science news webzine! Is that enough bragging?

Anyway, if you want to know more about science writers, science journalists, scientific journalists, journalistic scientists or whatever then Wikipedia has a nice entry on the subject. This is an earlier rendition: “A science writer is more than a scientific journalist although similarly, a science writer specializes in writing about science topics. He or she may do this for many audiences outside the realm of the traditional journalist’s beat. For instance, books, essays, feature articles, brochures, in-house magazines, press releases, promotional literature and other materials like websites and intranets. A science writer, like a scientific journalist must be competent not only in stringing words together to create interesting sentences but must also be able to understand scientific issues and research to such a degree that important results can be interpreted for the particular audience in question. This may entail simplifying or equally expanding on a given scientific topic.” For an alt view of web design check out this company.

雷竞技官网 is a member of the US National Association of Science Writers, the Association of British Science Writers, which in turn, is a member of EUSJA (the European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations. He is a writer specializing in chemistry and other sciences.